16.04.17 | News, A Day to Remember

A Day to Remember...

For the people in Korea this year’s Easter feast is not only a day to celebrate, but also a day of grief – three years ago 304 people died when the Sewol ferry sank. EMS Ecumenical Co-worker, Karina Schumacher, reports from South Korea
A banner with a quote from a Korean mother who lost her child at the Sewol catastrophe.

"God becomes visible through the people by my side" - quote of the mother of LEE Changhyun. The student lost her life at the Sewol accident. (Photo: JEON Iru)

This year, Easter 2017 will be on the 16th of April, the third anniversary of the Sewol catastrophe. Three years, 1,096 days ago, the ferry suddenly capsized on its way from Incheon to Jeju. 304 of the 476 passengers died because the crew told the people to stay in their cabins and wait for help before they themselves left the ship. 250 of the victims were pupils from the Danwon Highschool in Ansan who have been on a school trip. Until today, nine people are still missing.

The Sewol ferry was raised to the surface three years after the disaster.
The raised ferry will be investigated in the dry-dock of Mokpo. (Photo: JEON Iru)

After a long preparation the ship which lay 40 meters below was finally lifted in the morning of 23 March 2017. The families of the missing people now hope that finally the mortal remains of their loved ones will be found. The other victims' families hope to get new information on the cause of the accident. The wreck was moved into the port of Mokpo and will now be investigated further.

Each year at Easter several Christian denominations in Korea celebrate a common "service with our suffering neighbours". Migrant workers, employees in difficult or inhuman working conditions, soldiers who have been sent to Iraq or the Four-River-Project are only some examples. And since 2014, the families of the victims of the Sewol catastrophe are part of it as well.

It is spring in Korea. After the long and often bitterly cold winter the rays of sunshine are great for the body and the soul. Finally, the people dare to come outside again; they are drawn to the mountains and islands. The young people of the Danwon Highschool had the same anticipation when they left their homes in 2014. But instead of enjoying the sunny spring weather and the fresh sea breeze they were buried by 96 tons of steel.

For the relatives on that day the world ended, the time froze. Each year when the first blossoms announce the spring the pain comes back. "God becomes visible through the people by my side," says a banner. It is a quote from the mother of one of the drowned students. This is the reason why Christians in Korea do not celebrate the Easter service happily within their family circle or congregation but with their suffering neighbours. Christ is risen. He is risen indeed. He has defeated death. For you and for me and especially for all who carry grief in this world.

Karina Schumacher