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[Yoojin Lee`s Standpoint] #1 Sometimes Tears only breed more Misery

이종원 | 2014.09.22 15:57 | 조회: 982 | 덧글보기(0)
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The original Korean version of “Rising Star #1: Sometimes Tears only breed more Misery” was written by Freedom Factory's Planning Director, Yoojin Lee, on April 22nd 2014. It can be found here.

On April 16th 2014, the Sewol sank off the coast of South Jeolla Province. As of this writing, out of a total of 476 passengers, 174 passengers were rescued, 215 people are still missing, and 87 people have been found dead. Out of 325 high school students who were on a field trip, only 75 were rescued. The other 250 children's parents are in shock and have been devastated. No matter how much we may think we have been desensitized by the media, this is no way one could ever get used to seeing something like this.

Accidents are called accidents because they happen accidentally. They are out of our control. “Unpredictable accidents” (불의의 사고) is quite the redundant statement. Claiming that we could have prevented such-and-such an accident if only we had taken such-and-such steps can only occur in hindsight. Notice that even in the movie “Minority Report,” where it is possible to predict imminent crimes, none could prevent accidents.

No matter how much we prepare for any possible eventuality, accidents are, unfortunately, inevitable. The only way we can truly minimize accidents is to be ever vigilant about our surroundings. There is no way to eliminate accidents altogether.

There is no way.” Perhaps that is the most frustrating thing about this tragic incident; that we can't do anything about it.

As for the public, it is now gripped in fear over the possibility of such an accident happening again. While the public is praying that such an accident never happens again in the future (a real miracle that would be), the courts are carrying out swift trials for those deemed responsible. As new villains are discovered everyday, the public seems to be capable of unquenchable hate. There doesn't seem to be anyone who are questioning whether any of this productive. But then again, if they had the ability to think rationally, I don't suppose they would be this angry to begin with.

Last weekend, all three major broadcast network channels, as well as Internet media sites had reported on the Sewol, mixing facts and rumors, from sun up until sun down. Even personal blogs were participating in it. Everywhere you turn, there is fear, sadness, and anger.

People who dared to go to a baseball game or even showed signs of being happy in their personal lives were damned as sinners by the public. It's not just baseball games. Concerts, cultural festivals, seminars, public debates... they have all either canceled or have been postponed indefinitely so as not to be thought of as being heartless.

It seems that when my neighbors are in mourning, I have to be in mourning, too. And when they are angry, I also have to be angry. It's like as though the sinking of the Sewol has caused time itself to stop.

When we mourn for the dead, do we do it privately in our thoughts, or do we have to express it publicly? If we don't express our regrets and sorrows publicly, must we necessarily be fearful of being thought of as lacking compassion? If that is, indeed, what we must do, considering all the tragic events that occur around the world on a daily basis, each of us ought to ceaselessly wail and gnash our teeth 24/7 until the moment we die.

Some people will meet unfortunate and untimely deaths. Despite that, however, the living must continue living. Death is a part of life. Any sympathy from those people who were not directly affected by a tragedy, though thoughtful for the time being, is simply an extension of one's own self-centeredness.

As far as the victims, survivors, and their family members are concerned, no matter how sincere an expression of a stranger's sympathies may be, other people's condolences can be annoying at best, and offensive at worst. Therefore, the only humane things that the rest of us can do are to remain silent and give those people the time and the space that they need to grieve.

The authorities are saying that it might take about two months for them to pull the Sewol out of its watery grave. I wonder if the rest of us will be able to regain our composure by then, too? In two months, when the sunken ship has revealed all of her secrets, among those of us who were not directly affected by the sinking of this ferry, many of us will have already forgotten the incident and will have begun to cheer for our national soccer team in the World Cup. Like as though they had earned the right to be joyful again since they had already shown their obligatory sense of sorrow.

Let us not blindly follow this Pied Piper that calls itself the media. Let us not all force ourselves to be sorrowful just because the media is telling us to be sorrowful. Let us not actively engage in promoting grief or anger.

The only thing that the rest of us should do is to live our lives normally and give the victims of this tragedy the time and the space that they need. That is the best way that we can truly help them.

Selected Poem

If things could be resolved with but a word of condolence
There would be no tragedy in the world

As we search for answers
If I should hit a wall
I want to at least stop my quest
And rest on that spot for at least a while

Claiming that someone must know the unknown
Honoring some
While cursing others

When I am hurt by something in the world
I just want to leave my hurt be

I hear that it is not true
That a silent heart suffers less than an open book

Sometimes, tears only breed more misery.

Planning Director of Freedom Factory
Yoojin Lee

This article was translated by John Lee who is the editor and writer behind the independently-run blog,The Korean Foreigner.”  He can be reached at

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