My Thoughts on the Sewol Tragedy

I can't believe it's May already. The school year seemed to have flown by. This blog has become like a neglected puppy, once the apple of my eye, and now metaphorically tugging on my shirt begging to be walked. I want to write, I do. My dream would be to be in a room by myself and have 24 hours of uninterrupted silence, with unlimited carby snacks and soda, (without the caloric repercussions) and my mac on my lap, and just be able to write. But alas I can't put two sentences together without a million things begging my attention. 

So there's that and there's the overall gloominess of April.  The whole Sewol Ferry disaster was just devastating. Every time I read a new article or watched another video, as a parent, my heart broke for these families whose children were victims of a completely avoidable accident. I would recommend reading about the chronological order of events that took place here. When I think my tear ducts have run dry, with each video of wailing families, I'm back sobbing like a baby. Another thing that bothers me is everyone jumping on the whole "Confucian" branding and blaming of Korean culture for the accident.  As if they think "of course this disaster happened because Korean's are brainless robots that don't know better than to obey orders and sink with the ship." Let's remember how it was a student that first called 119. Let's remember that many students risked their lives to make sure their peers were safe first. Let's remember there were many ferry workers that risked their lives to save others. I like how Kai Ma put it in this article. All this culture blaming, inadvertently blames the victims of the crime. I'm not saying that Korean culture is completely guiltless in this tragedy, but lets look at the practical, structural, administrative flaws and then look at ways Korea can prevent such a tragedy from ever occurring again, instead of assigning a blanket of blame to "Confucianism."  Many of these media outlets have a skin-deep understanding of Confucianism, and know it as "subordinates are to listen to authorities" and nothing more, so it must be really easy brainstorming about it around the water cooler of these media outlets.

I would love for of the media to come up with articles that shed light on a more nuanced understanding of Confucianism and exactly how it affects Korean culture and what Confucianism actually is and is not. This blog put it better than I ever could here. This tragedy was an alarm for many of us. As a Korean American I've become so proud over the years to see Korea, boom and blossom the way it has. Hearing the countless stories of from my parents, of the war torn ravaged country they remember from their childhood, to seeing the economic powerhouse it has become today, made my chest fill with pride. Even though I was born here in the States and I've only visited the Motherland once in 1997, knowing that it is the country of my parents and my ancestors, I couldn't help but feel a vague attachment to it. In recent years, another source of pride was the entertainment industry of Korea. I think many of us were blinded by the bright lights of K-Pop, K-Drama, and wealth, and failed to see the cracks in the country's veneer. When I read how lax the safety measures were on the Sewol, how abominably dangerous they made that ferry for travel, and the overall sinful negligence of the top crew members, just as I felt a subtle sense of pride for Korea's achievements, I feel an overarching sense of shame for what happened on the rugged Dadohae sea. I don't have roots in Korea, I've never lived there, but inexplicably, I feel connected to it's well being.

As a parent I can't imagine the grief and the agony these families are going through. The fact that this was a completely preventable tragedy makes it unbearable. As parents, we are able to empathize. We are able to feel to a gut wrenching degree for the victims families. These kids were in the prime of their youth with all the love of their families and their high expectations embracing them. So alas, my small plea, on my small blog, in an infinitely large webosphere, let's change the conversation to what can be done, how we can help, and remember the heroes of this tragedy, that the future hope of a nation can be seen in the bravery that a few crew members and students showed on that fatal day. Let's respect their memories and put steps into place that ensure that a tragedy so preventable never occurs again.