Citizens launched newspaper ad campaigns and started boycotting the ferry operator’s affiliates
In anger, Sohn Sooji(pseudonym), the mother of a 3-year old, said “Everytime I watch news, I feel a strong desire to leave this country.” Since the sinking of the ferry Sewol, Sohn and her friends, mostly mothers of her child’s friends, have exchanged their critical views over the government’s disaster response and somewhat provocative media coverage via KakaoStory, a photo sharing social network for KakaoTalk users, which used to be a venue for them to update their child’s everyday life.
Outraged mothers have begun actively voicing out their opinions through online communities dedicated to various topics such as marriage, birth, and child care, implying that they are running out of patience.
Popular online communities such as ‘Lemon**,’ ‘Moms**,’ and ‘Mama**’ which have more than 2 million users respectively did not see any writing posted immediately after the accident occurred. People waited in silence as first reports stated that every passenger was rescued. However, in just a couple of hours, the reports turned out to be incorrect. Many passengers, particularly students, were found to be missing. Starting on Day Two, netizens shared their frustration. An user nicknamed ‘Yomi*’ said “It is Day Two. But I firmly believe that students are still alive!”
People’s hope continued until Day Four when distrust in the government and media outlets began emerging. ‘Eun**’ left a comment “The government response is only aggravating the pain of families. I recall, a family of a victim who died during the latest skirmish in the West Sea said they decided to emigrate to a different country out of disappointment toward the government. It seems that nothing has changed since then." Another user ‘Ang***’ wrote ”The sinking indicates that we are not headed in the right direction.“
Many complained that incendiary and inaccurate media reports caused them to suffer from either depression or sleep disorders. A netizen with a nickname ‘Taeyangsa***’ who claimed to be pregnant remarked “I came across many disheartening stories and kept crying. These days, I shed tears at least once a day.” Trying to comfort her, other pregnant women commented “I rationalize myself that crying in sympathy would not hurt my baby,” or “On the one hand, I cry, but on the other hand, I become enraged and blurt out some swear words.”
On Day 5, mothers exploded with rage. One message read “Senior government officials criticized for eating instant noodles in the gym, drinking boilermakers, or taking photos to leave their footprints are as absurd as the captain who left the vessel to save his life. It feels miserable. For the first time in my life, I am thinking about emigrating aborad. (Oren***)” Another read “I have already planned to leave Korea. It is scheduled for next month. Of all the accidents and disasters we have experienced, this is the worst. Skepticism toward the government has soared. (Ashul**)”
Meanwhile, others tried to cheer up, saying “One’s motherland is the best place to live in,” or “We have to choose qualified and responsible leaders. That is what we can do for our children’s future.”
Mothers are now in action
Many began to recognize that the nation as a whole holds responsible for the ferry disaster. Bearing in mind that any child could fall victim to a tragedy, mothers took the initiative in boycotting Moonjin Media, a company founded by former Semo Group Chairman Yoo Byung-eun, the de facto owner of Cheonghaejin Marine Company which is the operator of the sunken ship. This is quite similar to how mothers responded to the issue of mad cow disease back in 2008: they brought their babies in strollers and took to the street, protesting for food safety for their kids.
On April 25, ‘Chakhan***’ urged users to pay attention to politics, saying “It is not a matter of taking sides. It is about time that mothers get more engaged in politics.” Many agreed.
In cooperation with citizens, The Parents for True Education printed an ad in daily newspapers, with a catch phrase ‘The government is accountable for the tragedy.’ Such efforts show that mothers would no longer sit still and keep silence.
In an interview over the phone, Nah Myeongjoo, President of the chapter in the northeastern district of Seoul of The Parents for True Education told The Women’s news “The entire nation watched how so many students were left dying inside the ship and began questioning themselves ‘What is a nation?’ President Park is said to have delivered long-overdue apologies today, but she failed to cool down people’s anger.”
Director Kang Yong of the Korea Psychology Counsel Center pointed out “Many parents feel enraged because they have associated themselves with the parents of the victims who are approximately the same age as their kid. They have been shocked by the recent incident. A strong sense of resistance that my child should not be put in the same situation is expressed as fury. People tend to turn to collective action as depression develops into wrath.”
The sunken ferry has made mothers cry and led them to take action.