Happiness is being redefined
Since the ferry Sewol submerged 15 days ago, mothers have become proactive. They lost their temper as some 300 students who listened to an announcement urging passengers to ‘Stay put’ were found either missing or dead.
They came to think that the tragedy could have happened to their kid as well. Feeling accountable, they cooled down their anger and started engaging in collective action with an aim to urge politicians and the society as a whole to focus on bringing about change so that the recent catastrophe would not repeat itself.
Currently, there is a great number of mothers annoyed and frustrated. A 44-year old Noh Eunjoo who is the mother of a middle schooler and a high schooler said “I have always told my kids to keep order and follow instructions. But now I am not confident about these principles any more. As you are well aware, the victims passed away because they listened to given guidelines. I might have to tell my kids to follow their own instincts when an accident happens. With no doubt, the recent disaster exposed vulnerabilities in our education system and disheartened the entire nation.” Indeed, due to the sinking of the ferry, disbelief in home disciplines, school education, and the government has become rampant.
Nevertheless, to some, the crisis has been seen as an opportunity to reflect on their life, thoroughly review their philosophies in education, and reexamine core values in life.
“When my kids go to school, I used to say ‘Bye.’ But these days, I often tell them to ‘Be safe,” said Lee Yeoungmi who is the mother of two middle schoolers in Cheonan, South Chungcheong Province. She changed her greetings because ’today’ may be their ’last day‘ together.
In addition, Lee told her children to do what they want to do. She added “The victims, mostly students, died at such a young age and they missed the chance to realize their own dreams. As observed from the recent accident, children can face danger anytime and anywhere. I learned that life is not about going to a prestigious school or getting employed at a renowned company.”
A 55-year old Jeong Bokhee, the mother of three children, was a helicopter mom. Paying extremely close attention to her children, she checked their school grades and controlled their fashion even after they grew up. When her second daughter persisted in staying single, Jeong pressed her to marry.
However, Jeong has changed her mind and reset her priorities after the accident. Jeong commented “I believed my disciplines would definitely make them happier. Looking back, I realized how wrong I have been. I was actually blocking my children from being truly happy. I may have forced my daughter to marry because I was too conscious of what others might think about her. From now on, however, I am going to study what is best for her and listen to her.”
A 41-year old Kim Jiyeong, the mother of a high schooler, confessed “I used to oppress my kid to study and attend classes at private educational institutes so as to outcompete others and lead a happy life. But not anymore.” With a smile, she added “I was too shy to tell her in person so I sent her a Kakaotalk message that reads ‘Thank you for being here with me. I am grateful that you are alive and healthy.’ She replied, ‘Me too. Mom, I love you.’”
Ordinary moms are now in action. On April 30, some 100 mothers clad in black with a yellow ribbon brought their babies in strollers and marched on the streets near Gangnam Subway Station. Some members of virtual communities devoted to child care explained “Instead of worrying and crying, we decided to urge people to help us protect our kids."
Some mothers in the city of Ansan created ‘Mothers’ Yellow Handkerchief,‘ an online community dedicated to the victims and their families. In just four days of its launch, the membership reached 3636. Though not biological parents, aunts and uncles have joined the movement to guarantee children the right to safety and happiness.
Everyone seems determined to lead the country in the right direction. While some have reexamined and reset their priorities in life, others have participated in candlelight vigils. Now is the time for the government to act.
Take note that it has always been mothers who rose up in protest and brought about change at a critical juncture: In 2008, mothers wheeled strollers and attended candlelight demonstrations against U.S. beef imports; In 2011, moms gathered and staged the first campaign to raise awareness on radiation exposures since the Fukushima nuclear power plant accident. This time, they are fully armed with yellow ribbons to fight for their children’s right to safety.