South Korea is on edge. A government official has been sacked for initiating an employee group picture at the port where the Sewol victims’ parents were waiting. A politician has been demonized for eating cup noodles at the gymnasium where the victims’ parents are sleeping. Many prominent festivals have been canceled and campaigns for the upcoming June elections have been put on hold. The television reports don’t stop; all day, you hear news of the incompetent crew, the incompetent corporate management, the incompetent government rescue agencies, the incompetent nation and even the incompetent media.
It’s been almost a week since the ferry Sewol sank. In other words, just a week ago, everyone was alive. This time a week ago, the 475 passengers and crew (assuming this tally is finally the correct one) must have settled down in the ship, possibly had dinner, and were probably playing with smartphones (they were South Koreans, after all). Some of the 325 high school students may have called their parents; maybe they were taking selfies with friends; maybe they were gossiping about who bitched about whom. It’s hard to believe that it was only a week ago. A week later, 174 of the 475 on board would live, 121 would be found as lifeless bodies, and 180 would still be missing. Where are you?
I thought I would have more to say. After all, there are so many things to talk about. But none of it seems very important. Words are insufficient in the face of grief. May the victims rest in peace and god bless the ones who lived.
Translation of Namjun Cho’s poem:
You good fools / good children who only did what you were told / Staying when told to stay / waiting when told to wait / Who did this to our beautiful children / Inside school…inside control, the walls are already tilting / Who made your judgments stall / What the grownups say, what the teachers say / you’ll be fine if you do what they say. / So you trusted them and kept calm until the end / I bow my head in heavy tears at the sight….