Things had finally been looking up for 26-year-old Jinath.
He had married his wife, Fatima, in July. It was a love match, and they had struggled for eight years to win the approval of their parents.
Finally, after Jinath came to Korea, both families accepted the marriage, and they were expecting a child.
Jinath died in the Itaewon crowd disaster on Saturday. Now Fatima, who had been planning to study in Korea, has only one request: “Please send my husband home.”
“She doesn’t have more words than just asking for her husband’s body to perform the last funeral rites,” Ifham, a close friend of the deceased who is helping with the repatriation of the body, told The Korea Herald from Sri Lanka. "We are trying and coordinating with the Sri Lankan Embassy in Seoul but the process is taking time."
“Jinath wanted Fatima to come to Korea for studies, live there with him. She was preparing documents for admission in to a Korean university recently, however, all those dreams have been shattered,” Ifham said.
According to Ifham, Jinath had a lot on his shoulders. Fatima is pregnant, and he was the sole breadwinner for his family. His mother has cancer, his father is diabetic and his elder brother has struggled with mental health issues.
“Jinath came to Korea to earn money, treat his mother’s cancer, send his brother to a foreign country, get married, build a home, a family. He had many dreams,” Katheer, one of Jinath’s co-workers, told The Korea Herald.
Katheer said that Jinath was not known for frequenting nightclubs, and that he had only gone out to take a walk that night.
“It was not the time for him to leave us, I just can’t believe this happened,” he said.
According to Rihas, another friend of Jinath working to send him home, Jinath could not be reached after 9 p.m. Saturday, and Jinath’s phone was found at a subway station the following day.
In the confusion that followed the incident, locating Jinath was an ordeal, Rihas and the others recalled.
“We contacted Hannam Community Service Center many times for Jinath’s whereabouts, but every time, we were told only to wait. Finally, we found out through Sri Lankan community sources that Jinath is in Boramae hospital,” Rihas said, adding that he and the others only thought that Jinath had been hospitalized.
Though the South Korean government and the Sri Lankan Embassy have said they will offer support, Ifham says that Jinath’s family are worried about the expenses of bringing his body home.
“If needed, we will collect donations among community members,” stressed a Pakistani businessman who runs an Indian restaurant in Itaewon.
“We will coordinate with many foreign residents and prepare accordingly,” the restaurant owner told The Korea Herald.
The Sri Lankan Embassy in Seoul told The Korea Herald that it remained committed to extending as much assistance as it can.