After the ferry tragedy, parents’ hugs get a bit tighter

May 8, 2014
A girl with a man put a paper ship for the victims and missing passengers of the sunken ferry Sewol at a group memorial altar in Seoul, South Korea, Wednesday, May 7, 2014. (AP Photo/Lee Jin-man)

A girl with a man put a paper ship for the victims and missing passengers of the sunken ferry Sewol at a group memorial altar in Seoul, South Korea, Wednesday, May 7, 2014. (AP Photo/Lee Jin-man)

A man breaks down after checking the list. (Yonhap)

Many parents have come to realize how fortunate they are just to have their children by their side, safe and sound.

By Kim Da-ye

For many mothers and fathers, the Sewol tragedy was a reminder – just how much their children mean to them, and perhaps they’ve been taking them for granted.

Asked if her feelings for her child had changed since the April 16 ferry sinking, Kim Hyeong-mee, 42, a government official, said, “Of course, they have. Most parents feel this way nowadays.”

Her only son is a sophomore high school student — the same grade as the Danwon High School students who died in the ferry that sank on its way to Jeju Island.

“Although my son doesn’t do well at school and doesn’t always obey me, I am just happy to have him by my side now,” Kim said.

Han Kyung-jin, a 30-year-old mother who gave birth two months ago, held a similar view. “I really hope my daughter will grow up healthy and safe. I want her to do whatever she wants to unless it’s a bad thing. I don’t want to force her to do something because of my own ambitions,” Han said.

“Even if she wants weightlifting as a career — not figure skating like Kim Yu-na, I am ready to support her. I want to be nice to her at any moment so that I do not regret anything.”

During the interview, she said her daughter was crying because she wanted to be cuddled. While some people say too much cuddling can spoil a baby, she said she now wants to hold her as often as possible.

Han Hye-sook, 49, a housewife, said that the Sewol tragedy made this year’s Parents’ Day different from previous ones.

“Thinking of parents who lost their children in the accident, it might be inappropriate to feel happy today, but my family members’ presence is a great pleasure and I appreciate that. I now think that having my family safe is the greatest thing,” Han said.

The mother said that her two daughters gave her a carnation, a traditional gift for parents on May 8. She hadn’t usually worn the corsage, but decided to this year because her younger daughter said, “I am so grateful that you and father are here with us.”

While the ferry accident strengthened the relationship between parents and children, some mothers and fathers opted to grieve for the victims with their families, instead of celebrating the day.

Lee Young-mi, 54, an employee of a Korean heritage preservation organization and mother of two sons, said, “My heart flinches every time I see middle or high school students in uniforms, as if I did something wrong, which is a rare inexplicable feeling. They all feel like my own children.

“The tragedy didn’t particularly bring my family closer because I feel guilty coddling them at the expense of someone else’s misfortune. There’s not much we can do other than sharing our hearts in sorrow and consolation.”

Lee also expressed her disappointment at society. “Everything is about money in our country; some are even saying that the prolonged national mourning is hurting the economy.”

“But if they were the parents of the lost students could they say such things? People’s anger at society and the system is so great that we haven’t fully reconciled our broken hearts.”

Lee Seug-min, 46, another housewife in Seoul, said she told her 11-year-old daughter not to prepare a carnation corsage this year.

“I felt kind of guilty about wearing the flower on my breast because I was thinking of those parents who lost their children in the accident,” Lee said.

“Since the ferry accident, I can hardly stop crying whenever I watch television news. It’s so sad, but at the same time I am also grateful for having my family safe.”

Bahk Eun-ji, Nam Hyun-woo and Joel Lee contributed to this report.

One Comment

  1. Mary

    May 11, 2014 at 6:07 PM

    It is hard how all of this must change the way things have been happening in Korea.

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