In Korean, the word Sewol means “time.”
Sewol was the name of the ferry that met a sudden and tragic fate on Wednesday morning, but time was what we didn’t have in the painstaking efforts to save those on board.
The deaths of so many people ― mostly high school students ― in what appears to be an accident that could have been avoided, has left us all in a state of shock and grief.
It was quite unbearable to read about the text messages from the kids who tried to communicate their locations, and those who said “I love you” to their parents because they felt they might not make it out alive.
I hope these messages reach out not only to their family, but to the government, to the schools, to the teachers and whoever else is responsible for the safety of our students when they are not under their parents’ guidance.
The senseless deaths must stop.
We remember all too clearly the February accident at the resort built by Kolon that killed 10 people and left over 100 students and teachers injured when an auditorium roof collapsed, unable to resist the weight of snow that should not have been there.
Then there was the reckless swimming session with the Marines that claimed the lives of yet more youngsters. We were all speechless after finding out they had been ordered to jump ship in a dangerous area with no life jackets.
These accidents all have something very wrong in common, and it was that they were caused by reckless and irresponsible human error.
It breaks our hearts even further because we know that if the right emergency steps had been taken ― for instance, if the people aboard the Sewol were given timely instructions and if the equipment was working properly ― fewer lives would have been lost.
As a parent, I have vowed to never send my son on a school field trip. I am quite certain there are many more who feel this way.
How many people will have to die before we can put some fail-safe safety procedures and practices into place?
How many more will have to be sacrificed before we decide that safety comes above all else, including money?
This is the answer that our government must provide us with.
And while I don’t want to point any fingers of blame as of yet, we need to at least hear an explanation from the captain who was so eager to escape. Being sorry is not enough.
We also want to know why the ferry had been allowed to carry such heavy cargo that it was thrown off balance trying to make what should have been an easy turn.
And we want to know exactly how the nation’s schools will prevent similar incidents in the future. We want preventive measures in intense detail, and we want a promise that this kind of tragedy will never again happen.
Otherwise, the deaths of those aboard the Sewol, the tears wept by the bereaved families and the utter sense of grief that gripped them, would have gone to waste.
It is the kind of waste that even time cannot ease or undo.
By Kim Ji-hyun, Business editor (firstname.lastname@example.org)