A week after ill-fated ferry Sewol plunged into the ocean, taking the lives of more than 100 people, people across the nation are suffering from emotional scars.
The mass depression appears to be taking a larger toll on students and teachers, as the majority of the deceased had been students from Danwon High School in Ansan, Gyeonggi Province.
As of Wednesday, many schools in Seoul and Gyeonggi Province announced they were canceling field trips out of respect for the more than 90 students who have been confirmed dead after the sinking.
“Many students and teachers are emotionally attached to the ferry tragedy, which means there is a great danger of large-scale trauma,” said Ha Byung-soo, a spokesperson for the Korean Teachers’ and Education Workers’ Union. “The government needs to come up with a plan for members of schools.”
The KTU said it would provide therapy for teachers and students across the country.
A Seoul-based elementary school said it sent a text message to parents urging them to stop their children from watching news related to the Sewol.
On Tuesday, the Korea Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry issued a public statement and cautioned against the mental distress suffered by many Koreans.
“The parade of Sewol-related coverage can be hard on people, especially children. This can lead to stress, nervousness, sleep disorders and even depression, frustration, anger and a sense of helplessness,” the KACAP said.
It advised people to go back to their regular lives and not get swamped by the flooding news coverage about the accident.
“Too much exposure to the news can be stressful. For the time being, the distressed people should focus on things they like, or enjoy physical activities like sports,” said Chae Jung-ho, a professor of psychiatry at Seoul St. Mary’s Hospital.
Early Wednesday, the government set up a temporary memorial at Olympic Memorial Hall in Ansan for the 22 victims who have already been buried.
In light of a series of school field trip-related accidents, the Education Ministry on Monday issued a temporary ban on days-long field trips during the first half of this year for all schools. The ministry also vowed to develop safety manuals for school trips that involve ferry or plane rides.
By Yoon Min-sik (firstname.lastname@example.org)