“It could have happened to me”
“President, could you explain why we failed to rescue any more passengers?”
Teenagers have taken action. Their condolences for students from Danwon High School in Ansan, Gyeonggi Province, who were killed on a school field trip due to the sinking of the ferry Sewol, developed into anger toward irresponsible and incompetent adults.
“We are the same age. It could have happened to all of us. In one of the video clips taken by one of the victims, one student jokingly said ‘The ship is sinking. We might die.’ You see, these words actually came true. For the first time in my life, I cried a lot upon watching the tragedy unfolds.”
(Kim Jeongeun, 17)
“I talked with my classmates and concluded that I would have done the same thing: Wait for the instruction and do as told when an emergency occurs.”
(Lee Seyoon, 17)
After the incident broke out, Kim Jeongeun and Lee Seyoon, sophomores in Gaepo High School, Seoul, posted a message on Facebook, urging their friends to send in some necessities for the victims’ families in Jindo. In just four days, they came up with five boxes full of sanitary pads, toilet papers, disposable spoons and chopsticks, towels, underclothes, toothbrushes, toothpaste, coffee, chocolate, and wet tissue. Kim and Lee placed Post-it near the school canteen and asked the entire school students to write messages of condolences. They collected hundreds of messages such as “We are waiting for your return. Let’s take College Scholastic Ability Test!” or “Cheer up guys!” Some teachers praised Kim and Lee for their idea and effort. They categorized the collected relief goods and sent them with Post-it messages, free of charge because the goods were the relief aid for the families in Jindo.
Their effort continued even during the midterm because they found it important to do something they can, instead of deploring the unexpected death of their friends. Kim said “I realized that every single day is valuable. I regret getting into a conflict with a friend of mine. I don’t want to waste my time any more.” Lee also said “I may be distressed from time to time. But I am not going to take my life for granted. I won’t say things like ‘I would rather die.’ To honor those who died during the ferry disaster, we have to take life more seriously and show respect for it.”
On May 3, some students including those from the ‘21st Century Youth Community’ held a candlelight vigil on their own. The students were in their uniform and they put up a banner that reads “President, could you explain why we failed to rescue any more passengers?” They criticized the government for being incompetent in its rescue effort, requested the current administration to extend official apologies, and showed their determination to bring those responsible to justice when they become eligible to vote.
Using their real name, other students posted a complaint on the webpage of the Blue House. Some of them include Yang Jihye (Sophomore in Jungsan High School, Ilsan, Gyeonggi), Kang Wonhee (Senior in Yonghwa Girls’ High School), and Park Sohyun (Senior in Cheongwon Girls’ High School). Following their participation in a demonstration entitled ‘Stay Put,’ first proposed by Yong Hyein from Gyeonghee University, these students suggested that they organize a gathering among the youth.
Yang claimed “Instructions like ‘Stay Put’ are what we have been hearing all the time. From now on, the youth needs to be in the driver’s seat.”
“After the incident, I heard many adults who were very sorry that they had to let go of the victims who lost the chance to realize their dreams. In fact, the saddest part is that we, the young, have been educated and trained to remain passive. We have not learned how to protect ourselves nor seek genuine happiness in life. Young people have to voice out their opinions.”
Kang commented “A netizen created a ‘KakaoTalk yellow ribbon wearing campaign’ that had a caption stating ‘One small movement, big miracles.’ Participation in the campaign is surely meaningful. However, that is not enough. We should do more.”
“I believe that we should start to speak out for ourselves and take collective action, going well beyond sharing pain via social media. We can’t just remain silent.”
At 3 p.m., May 10, the students are going to hold a rally in front of Myeongdong Cathedral.