Op-Ed: The tragedy in Seoul should force South Korean society to consider the despair of the next generation
A couple months ago, I read an article about the death of a seven-year-old South Korean girl by drowning in South Korean waters. For a country that prides itself on its people’s high quality of life, that’s a tragedy of a different order, as the author pointed out.
I had never thought much about the South Korean people, but after reading that article, I began to wonder, with whom, really, do I think about the South Korean people? My family, I suppose. My family and that article, but the people of South Korea are not me. In fact, they are not me and, for some reason, they are not really that person, so to speak. And in a way, that’s exactly why I worry, that I’ve taken it for granted.
I want to write about the tragedy in Seoul because I want to write about the despair of the next generation in a country that has seen more than one tragedy in the past decade. The South Korean people – the citizens – have endured two of the world’s biggest tragedies within the last decade, in the form of the Sewol ferry disaster and the sinking of a South Korean ferry at the hands of North Korea. They have seen a third tragedy at the hands of their own government: how they react to the North Korea disaster. And the tragedy in Seoul is, for me, the most important of all three.
South Korean citizens have survived a major tragedy in the form of the Sewol, but the nation remains in shock. The government is under-prepared. The nation has not prepared for what they now face, in the form of the North Korea disaster. South Korean citizens are caught between two options: they can either face the North Korea disaster head on, or they can face their government head on.
The tragedy in Seoul is the most important of all three, because it is the most visible. It is the tragedy to which you can take yourself and others and show to the world what a democracy looks like. What happens when a democracy cannot defend its citizens? What happens when a democracy is destroyed by a tragedy?
At first glance, the Sewol is not the only tragedy the country has witnessed in the last decade. There are many tragedies, but the Sewol is of particular importance because South Korean