Saving the Sewol’s scarred survivors
Mr. A has had many chances to talk to students who survived the Sewol ferry incident, and the most painful thing he heard was, “Do we have to write on our resume that we graduated from Danwon High School? I wish there was no section to indicate which school we went to.”
The student said, “I am afraid to be known as someone who survived. There are so many people criticizing us online. What if I get treated differently when I get a job? What if I am bullied?”
The surviving students now are high school seniors, and in one more year they will be in college or have a job. They are suffering from yet another trauma due to online attacks in the aftermath of the Sewol ferry disaster.
While they wish to keep a low profile, they want the victims to be remembered forever. “Stories of some friends are known through the media, but there are many more who are not,” said one survivor. “Please remember them and celebrate their birthdays. When we know that these friends live in the hearts of others, we feel truly consoled.”
They also said that what they say and do should be accepted sincerely. They cannot cry when they are sad and cannot laugh when they are happy. They don’t know what to do when they are criticized for being foolish for crying and for not mourning their friends when they smile.
They also are tired of their words being interpreted through a political lens. For example, one said that he missed his friends so much and hoped the ship is salvaged. Then one side began political offensives demanding the immediate salvage of the ship. Others then condemned the students for supporting the rhetoric of a certain political faction.
Many of the students simply stay quiet because they don’t want to be misinterpreted. Parents and teachers are concerned that they don’t even say they are not feeling well, even when the stress and trauma lead to health issues.
One year after the tragedy, Korean society is still arguing over investigation and compensation issues. However, discussions about consoling and treating the survivors are nowhere to be heard.
Perhaps these young students are the biggest victims.
Those who survived the disaster will also be compensated. But that’s not the end. While their lives were saved, they are still suffering from trauma.
It is the duty of society to care for them and help them move forward into the future. It is about time we discuss how we can fulfill this duty and put it into action.
*The author is a national news writer for the JoongAng Ilbo. JoongAng Ilbo, April 18, Page 33
by LIM MYOUNG-SOO