Grief-stricken students return to school

By Suk Gee-hyun
  • Published : Apr 28, 2014 - 21:13
  • Updated : Apr 28, 2014 - 21:13
Classes for Danwon High School freshmen and sophomores who did not sign up for the ill-fated field trip to Jejudo Island resumed Monday, as funerals for the ferry victims were held in the same town.

The chilly, rainy weather reflected the general somber mood, as the students walked past flowers and messages outside the gates.

Some students were seen standing still as funeral cars carrying the victims of the Sewol disaster passed by.

Reporters’ access to school staff members, students and parents was restricted to help those who were still reeling from the loss of their friends, children and teachers. 
A hearse drives past students at Danwon High School in Ansan, Gyeonggi Province, Monday, when classes resumed for the school’s first- and second-year students. (Joint Press Corps)

A total of 418 students from the freshmen class and 13 second-year students who did not attend the trip returned to school in the morning, according to the Education Ministry. Among the two grades, seven students were absent.

Seniors, who already returned to school on April 24, took regular classes in the morning ahead of the mock Korean College Scholastic Ability Test in June. Art therapy sessions were held in the afternoon for the 481 final year students.

“The school will focus on therapy sessions until May 1 to help students recover and heal, rather than holding regular classes,” Baek Sung-hyun, spokesman for the Gyeonggi Provincial Office of Education, said in a briefing Monday.

The spokesman added that the curriculum would normalize on May 7, when schools reopen after a four-day weekend.

But it is still not clear when the 78 students who survived the disaster ― 77 in hospital and one at home ― will return to school.

While some say the school’s decision to reopen classes is “too cruel for the children” regarding the current social atmosphere, experts claim that running the school as normal is the safest way to help the kids.

Suh Chun-seok, a pediatric psychiatrist who is helping Danwon students, said the school was reopening to assure students that there were adults trying to protect them and provide accurate information about the situation.

“There are doubts about the school reopening. We didn’t call in the students to study the school curriculum. (We’re worried that) there may be students who make poor choices based on incorrect information,” Suh said in an interview with local broadcaster JTBC.

Nearly 250 Danwon High School students and teachers have been confirmed dead or missing after the ferry sinking, according to a joint investigation by the police and prosecution.

Only two among 14 teachers accompanying the students survived. The vice principal was also rescued, but killed himself two days after the accident.

By Suk Gee-hyun (