The Korea Herald


[New in Korean] Teenage survivor recounts Sewol ferry disaster and the aftermath

By Hwang Dong-hee

Published : April 15, 2023 - 15:51

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"Becoming Wind to Survive" by Yu Ga-young (Darun)

"Becoming Wind to Survive" (working title)

By Yu Ga-young


On April 16, 2014, Yu Ga-young, a 17-year-old student at Danwon High School recalls the day that shook the nation nine years ago.

Yu is one of the 75 who survived the Sewol ferry disaster. The other 325 students did not return.

“Everyone was at the cafeteria that morning, and suddenly we realized that the plates and desks were tilted,” she writes in her essay. One of her friends said, maybe it’s because the ship is turning a corner.

While the intercom announcement repeatedly said to stay where they were, Yu heard someone calling them to come out. Then she was pulled up from the room into the hallway.

“Before taking the helicopter, I think I looked back at my friends. I wonder how they would look at me, did they resent me for leaving first.”

This is the first book written by a survivor of the disaster, recounting the day and the nine years after, based on her diary.

She writes that she still visits the sea in her nightmares, suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. She has battled with depression, insomnia, self-harm and spent time in a closed ward in a psychiatric hospital. She once dreamed of becoming a librarian because she loved books, but after the disaster, she could not read a word.

In 2018, Yu created a nonprofit organization called “Wounded Healer” to connect with other traumatized survivors who have also been hurt by disasters. This book is also part of the group's activities.

She hopes to deliver courage to those who are suffering similar pains.

“I thank people who treated me without prejudice and people who reached out to me unconditionally,” she said. Their support was the reason why she mustered up the courage to write the book so that the Sewol ferry disaster would not be forgotten.