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Thursday, April 16, 2015

South Korea: Sewol Action Day

Voice of People

Translated by Hyun Lee

"It's been one year since the tragedy but we don't even have an acceptable special law.  On the one year anniversary, I wanted to remember Yumin with a peaceful heart…. but I am distressed because I can't," said bereaved father Kim Young-oh, as he shed tears on the one year anniversary of the Sewol tragedy.  "I cry not because I'm sad but because I feel wronged," he added.

The bereaved family members of the Sewol tragedy gathered at Seoul City Hall Plaza on April 16 to demand the withdrawal of the "Government enforcement ordinance of the Sewol special law" and the recovery of the ship.  The families cancelled the memorial service originally planned at the Ansan memorial alter at 2 pm.  They decided that in the absence of a response from the government to their demands, it was impossible to hold a formal memorial service.

[April 16, 2014, the Jeju-bound Sewol ferry listed, flipped upside down and sank. More than 400 people died, many of them students trapped in cabins because the crew ordered them to stay put, even as the captain and others jumped onto an early coast guard boat.] 

30,000 citizens with yellow ribbons on their chests and holding white chrysanthemums filled the City Hall plaza.  300 bereaved family members with shaved heads sat in the front row and were joined by Seoul Mayor Pak Won-soon, New Politics Alliance for Democracy nantaional assembly members Jeong Cheong-rae, as well as popular singer Kim Jang-hoon.

Chair of the 416 Sewol Families Jeon Myeong-seon took the stage and declared, "There is no government or president that is truly for the people.  For the past year, all that the families have been requesting is for the government to uncover the truth and salvage the ship, and we've been waiting all this time for a response.  But the president refused to reply, and we can only feel sorry towards the victims."

"Until we get a response from the government to the bereaved families' demand to create a safer society so that no other would suffer our pain, we will continue to knock on the door of the Blue House," he pledged.

Heo Heung-hwan, father of Heo Da-yun, still missing from the Sewol tragedy, said, "We can't waste time crying. Until the ship is pulled ashore and the bodies of the 9 still missing are returned to the embrace of their families, I will be at the forefront of this fight.  Please stand with us until the end."  His speech was met with shouts of "Courage!" and applause from the audience.

There were music performances from folk singer Ahn Chi-hwan and popular singer Lee Seung-hwan.  Durng a poem and video dedicated to the victims, tears filled the eyes of citizens gathered in all corners of the plaza.  Chants of "Abolish the enforcement ordinance that impedes the truth!" and "Together until the end" could be heard all around City Hall plaza.

Operating director of the 416 Sewol Families Yu Gyeong-geun thanked the supporters, saying, "Without the support of general public, the families may have collapsed a long time ago."

Despite the chilly weather, citizens who came out to honor the pledge of "Together until the end" remained in City Hall plaza late into the night.

After the event, participants tried to march from City Hall plaza to Gwanghwamun Square for a wreath-laying ceremony.  But the police constructed a wall of police buses in front of the Finance Buiidng across from Gwanghwamun Square to block the procession.  The police, which deployed 10,000 officers for today's event, had announced that it will "deal strictly with any unlawful actions."

As of 11 pm, 6,000 citizens continue to face off against the police. 


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