Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Lesson from the Sewol Disaster

On April 16th we had the first anniversary of the sinking of the Sewol Ferry. The tragedy is now well know throughout the world and Korea is still looking for answers. 476 passengers and crew were on a trip from Incheon to the  holiday island of Jejudo-- 11 hours after leaving Incheon it sank killing 304.

Bishops' Mass Media Committee and the Seoul Diocese sponsored a forum on the  sinking of the ferry and the Church's role in dealing with the wounds caused by the  tragedy. The topic continues to be contentious for only small steps have been taken to appease the anger of the parents of the victims; the independent inquiry the parents want is  still far from a reality.

The movement to 'live correctly' was one of the  presentations at the forum, and what can be learned from the tragedy. Progress and development are positive goods but they also come with some serious negative results if we forget who is meant to benefit from the progress. The professor recalled the corruption that was involved, the lack of concern for people in the pursuit of financial profits, selfishness, greed, taking the easiest way to the greatest benefits, forgetting responsibility and the need for competency, unfettered competition with no concern for the damage that results prepares for a man-made disaster.

One of the presenters mentioned many of the Catholic laity did not show an interest in the aftermath of the tragedy for the victims. We need to break down the narrow mindedness and concern only for our own needs, and our failure to go out to others who are hurting.  

A mother of one of the victims mentioned many individuals showed solidarity with the victims and  parents. Solidarity was shown from below but she lamented that the government  showed little of this concern.  

A psychology professor mentioned at the port closest to the  place of the disaster there was a lack of sensitivity shown to the victims and the families by some of the government civil servants, which left a lasting wound on the families of the dead. 

Cardinal Yeom, who gave a talk  of encouragement to the forum members mentioned when the ferry sank,   many of our values and societal trust went down with the ferry and the victims. He hopes the tragedy will be a light that will show us our future direction. 

Transparency is a difficult attitude to attain for it allows the truth to appear no matter the harm done to the individual or group. Most of the time it is not something a person or group permits to happen without outside pressure. Hopefully the truth of the Sewol disaster, which is mostly known, will be allowed to be part of Korea's history and a lesson to future generations.     

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