A mockery of tragedy

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A mockery of tragedy

JANG JOO-YOUNG
The author is a national team reporter of the JoongAng Ilbo.


The dawn of April 26, 1986, was recorded as a tragic day for humanity. A nuclear power plant exploded in Chernobyl, 90 kilometers (56 miles) north of the Ukraine capital of Kiev, then Soviet Union. Tremendous amounts of radioactive material spread not only in Ukraine but also in Belarus and Russia.

The scope of the damage could not be counted. The Chernobyl Forum of experts estimated in a 2005 report that 56 people were killed and 4,000 people exposed to radiation died of disease later. Environmental groups claim that there are tens of thousands of victims complaining about aftereffects.

In 2019, HBO released a five-part documentary drama titled Chernobyl. The accident was reconstructed based on historical investigation. It exposed the reducing and cover-up by the Soviet government.

The series was highly acclaimed with a record-breaking rating and won 10 Emmys and 2 Golden Globes. Viewers raved over the drama that did not contain any flashy action scenes or surprise twists.

Some people visit Chernobyl in person to remember the tragedy. While overseas travel is restricted now due to the Covid-10 pandemic, the Chernobyl region attracted “dark tourism” after visits were allowed in 2011. (Dark tourism refers to the travel trend of visiting the scene of a tragedy such as a war or disaster.) Visitors increased, as the drama was a hit. The purpose of the tour is to feel the pain and learn the lessons of history.

On July 23, MBC’s Tokyo Olympics opening ceremony broadcast sparked controversy over its mention of Chernobyl. The broadcaster inserted a photo of the Chernobyl nuclear accident while the Ukrainian athletes were entering. They used the tragedy to introduce the country. Criticism poured in, and controversy spread after it was reported by foreign media. MBC President Park Sung-je apologized for the broadcast that undermined the spirit of the Olympics.

The Chernobyl accident is a tragedy that must not be forgotten. The same disaster won’t be repeated when we investigate the cause and learn from it. Of course, it is uncomfortable and painful to be reminded of the tragedy. Viewers of the drama series and dark tourism visitors remember Chernobyl with pain. There is no way to recall the tragedy in a fun, witty way. Such an attempt itself is a mockery on the tragedy.
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