Thursday, April 16, 2015

one year ago today (Ave, Anonymous Joe!)

Blogger Anonymous Joe over at the Marmot's Hole writes a good piece on the sinking of the ferry Sewol, which happened on April 16, 2014—exactly a year ago today. Joe's focus, at the beginning of his post, is right where it should be: on the captain, Lee Joon-seok, a pile of human garbage for whom I hope the Good Lord has reserved a special room in hell. Sure, the ferry company shares a huge measure of culpability, the ROK government doesn't come out looking all that rosy, and it's possible that certain Korean cultural quirks played a role in the eventual death toll (about 300 people). But Lee was the captain at the time, and instead of acting according to international maritime ethical standards, he was the first one off the sinking ship, having done next to nothing to help those trapped inside the hull. What followed, over the next few weeks, was a horror show as the death count ticked upward while parental hopes dwindled. More and more schoolchildren's bodies were found.

I asked my kids today what they thought, now that a year has come and gone. Has Korea learned any lessons from this? I wanted to know. One outspoken student, perhaps too quickly, barked, "Nope." Other students nodded sadly. The same situation played itself out in both of my classes today: students were unconvinced that the country, as a whole, has learned anything useful from this disaster. That's unfortunate if it's true.


1 comment:

Charles said...

This past winter the wife and I visited Japan. We flew there, but we took a ferry back from Shimonoseki to Busan. The first thing we did after stowing our luggage was practice the escape route from our cabin to the nearest rally point on deck several times. No one else was doing this, and I admit that it felt like a slightly ridiculous thing to be doing, but we did it anyway.

Leaving aside the issue of whether Korea has learned anything on the government or corporate level, I think Koreans as individuals suffer from the same malady that all human beings struggle with: the conviction that disasters only happen to other people. And then there's the similar conviction that you would somehow act differently than the people who failed to act and died in the most recent disaster. Maybe you will, maybe you won't. You'll never really know until it happens to you. But I think you can improve your chances through mindfulness and preparation. Thus our (slightly ridiculous) personal escape drill.

If nothing else, it would be nice to see safety drills implemented on ferries to at least the standard of what you see on airplanes.