A few months back, as I was talking to a friend of mine, I learned that the seniors from our particular school, Korea International School, couldn’t go on their regular overnight Senior Break trip. Why? Because of a particular South Korean policy that bans the transportation of students on school field trips on ferries, and all overnight student trips, as a direct result of the Sewol ferry incident.
Now for those of you who don’t know, the Sewol ferry incident is a tragedy where a ship called the MV Sewol capsized on April 16, 2014, with 476 people in it. 294 people passed away abroad that ship, mostly due to the captain’s orders towards the passengers to stay aboard the ship, while he himself and the crew members escaped aboard life rafts, leaving the hapless passengers to their watery fates. This incident brought worldwide attention, and rightfully so, but why would it result in the banning of ferry school trips policy?
And the much-anticipated, controversial answer for those of you who didn’t know already, is that there were 339 children, mostly teenage high school students from Danwon High school, and out of those people, about 250 teenagers died aboard that ship.
The reason why the South Korean government banned overnight trips for all students, private and public, is that there was a major ferry accident mainly caused by a corrupt, incapable captain, with the ferry just happening to unfortunately have 339 students from the same school on it at the time.
Now just let that sink in for a moment. Let it brew and simmer.
Alright, now as the reader you’ve likely felt at least a tinge of frustration at the policy laid out above, but you might not understand truly why you feel that. So let’s analyze and deconstruct this faulty measure altogether.
Firstly, if the Korean government would ban ferry transportation for school trips, and ban overnight trips because the ferries in Korea were faulty or whatnot, then does that mean that the government still tolerates adults around South Korea boarding ferries and taking trips on them, and/or camping/taking business trips overnight? What if a ferry full of businessmen capsized, then would business trips abroad ferries be banned as well?
Secondly, are ferries the only places in which students are placed in danger? The Sewol ferry incident sparked a widespread civilian-led crackdown on the faults in South Korean public transportation security in general. From public bus drivers speeding and swerving around the streets of Seoul almost as if they were ex-Nascar drivers reminiscing in their glory days, to the head on collision between a commuter and tourist train in July 23, 2014, the South Korean government has a lot of public safety issues that it has to solve, not only for students but for the whole civilian body itself!
And the worst bit is, this is only one of the many “policies” South Korea has ordered into effect right after the Sewol incident. In fact, in a quote made by Korea Realtime, education offices have issued a “flurry” of impromptu measures in the days during and after the disaster. And the one thing South Korea doesn’t need in the months after a national tragedy, is hastily thought up and passed legislatures designed solely for the purpose of calming the populace down.
The thing is right now, South Korea’s government serves to try to appease the people and keep the votes running, not to run the country itself. It may seem far-fetched, but just ask a solid number of random passers-by in the country, and you’ll see a general discontent among the Korean population, with an inherent distrust of the government that occasionally even runs into hatred.
And although it may seem like it couldn’t be any worse, it is. Fact is, South Korea’s government would do anything to hide their own weaknesses behind propaganda and subterfuge. Let’s take a step back and look at the Sewol incident again. Right after the ferry capsized, major news networks, such as MBC, SBS, and KBS dutifully relayed from an announcement made by the government, that all passengers aboard the RSS Sewol were saved in the first few minutes of the disaster.
Obviously this isn’t true, since it’s been proven that 294 people, in fact, have met their watery fates aboard that sinking ship. That blatant lie given out by all the major news networks in South Korea can only reflect one thing, the iron control the South Korean government has over the media. Lying and veiling their faults behind media manipulation is strictly against democratic procedures, and shows the decaying morality of our bureaucracy.
Furthermore, I, as an individual, am actually endangering myself by writing this article. The government of South Korea has also passed a law stating that government surveillance of the internet and of various SNS systems such as Kakaotalk, a prominent mobile device communication tool originally developed and mainly used in Korea, is legal, and anti-government statements essentially can be cracked down upon.
As a South Korean citizen, and as a person who will have to give two years of military service to my country for the good of South Korea, and as a person who has been born and raised on the soil of this country, I am deeply concerned.
(Image source: www.latitudenews.com/story/politicians-behaving-badly/)