Northwestern remembers lives lost in South Korea ferry sinking


Nathan Richards/Daily Senior Staffer

Students pause for a moment of reflection during a candlelight vigil Friday evening for victims of the Sewol ferry disaster. The event was organized by several student groups, including the Korean American Students Association.

Alice Yin, Reporter

Members of the Northwestern community gathered Friday night under the soft glow of a candlelight vigil to commemorate the lives lost in last month’s South Korean Sewol ferry sinking.

About 50 students, alumni and faculty members attended the vigil, which was organized by NU’s Korean American Student Association, Koreans At Northwestern University and Asian Pacific American Coalition.

Standing around The Rock, the crowd remembered the tragedy, which occurred on April 16, when a Sewol ferry capsized with 476 people on board. Most of the people on the ship were high school students, and at least 236 individuals died and 66 are still missing.

“Korea is talking about how they can make the country safe but the most important thing is just remembering all the young lives lost,” Asian languages and cultures Prof. Eunmi Lee said at the start of the event. “Nothing can be replaceable … (as) the mother of two children, I’m just very angry and sad about the whole thing.”

As the vigil began, the glow of a sea of white candles gradually radiated from the area as people passed the flame from one wick to another.

The vigil started by taking a moment of silence to reflect on those affected. Individuals then wrote messages on a banner while a student initiated the singing of the Korean national anthem.

The event concluded with people taking turns sharing their initial reactions and feelings about the tragedy. Many members of the crowd were in tears throughout the vigil.

“A lot of people have family back in Korea, and I really just wanted to come let them know that they have just as much support system here as well,” Weinberg sophomore Kevin Luong said. “It really hits home I think.”

During the vigil, attendees wore yellow ribbons around their wrists or pinned to their clothes. Korean families affected by the tragedies had used yellow ribbons as a sign of hope that their children would come home and to commemorate their loss and innocence.

Members of the crowd also held fliers passed out prior to the event that read, in Korean, “stay where you are.” These words were the instructions the crew leadership repeated over the P.A. system as the ferry sank. The flier invited people to understand the political outrage some held about the event.

Medill sophomore Hyo Jin Park organized and led the event as KASA’s president. With most of her family living in Korea, she felt there should be an event to represent the Korean community at NU.

“When I first heard the news, the first thing that came to my mind is that I was scared that somebody I knew would be on that ship,” Park said. “And the second thought when I found out that nobody I knew, thank God, was on that ship, was what I would have felt like if somebody was there, and if something that I said last time was something insignificant as ‘Hey, I ate my lunch.’ That’s why it means so much to me.”

Park said she was surprised and touched by the turnout. She said she wanted this vigil to be associated with unity and “hope that things could be different in the future.”

“As a 20-year-old with very little life experience, I had no idea how to organize a vigil and what’s expected at a vigil,” Park said. “But I saw a lot of non-Korean faces out there and Korean faces … and I was so grateful Northwestern University cared about this and would come out on a Friday night.”

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