Korean Ferry Sinking: Ansan Olympic Memorial

I usually spend time at Seoul City Library on Thursdays, but before lunch I decided to go to Ansan City to visit the Memorial for the victims of the Korean ferry sinking who are from Danwon High School. I have planned to join the “KAISA Day of Prayer” on Sunday, but I’m not sure if I could go after checking the weather forecast on that day.

Ansan Olympic Memorial Hall

I took the subway from Seoul City Hall to Gojan Station in Ansan. It was a little over an hour. I got out from exit 1 and immediately found the shuttle bus provided by the government. (It was to the right coming out of exit 1.)

A shuttle bus takes the people to the Memorial
A shuttle bus takes the people to the Memorial

The bus was not full and it left just a few minutes later. There was an eerie silence as we moved to Ansan Olympic Hall. Upon getting off, the passengers were ushered to fall in line ~ double queue. I could feel my hands shaking. People were wearing black. Outside are tents where refreshments are served. There is also a medical team on the left side to the hall.

Just in front of the hall, on the left side of the door is a table where guests can offer their donation and sign on the guestbook. Five mothers wearing black dresses were there. Their faces ashen ~ As the guests enter the hall, another group of women wearing black bow to the guests. I couldn’t look at them as I felt tears were starting to fall. So many people and yet it was so quiet.

Ansan Olympic Hall ~ where the memorial is on-going
Ansan Olympic Hall ~ where the memorial is on-going

After entering the hall, another group of people were standing side by side on the left side. Some of them holding boxes of tissue for guests, while others were handing out a stem of chrysanthemum for each visitor.

Photo: NewsIS
Photo: NewsIS

As I approach the front, I couldn’t help but look at the screen showing the photos and names of the students. And that was when I felt really sad… they were not just students of Danwon High School, but individuals with different names, faces and personality. I felt so sorry for these beautiful angels.

The man told us to line up in front and bow. Then we were cued to go to the front to lay down the flowers. That’s when I really broke down and I couldn’t stop the tears from falling. Looking at the photos of those young people made me feel even sadder. I saw the photo of Jung Cha Woong, the young hero who gave his life jacket to his drowning friend. Oh, there is one photograph that caught my attention. I forgot her name but it is a wacky photo of hers that her parents used. It made me smile if only for a fleeting moment. I guess her parents want to remember her the way she was ~ funny and full of life. I think I saw her photo in the news yesterday and I’ll try to find it online.

Photo: NewsIS
Photo: NewsIS

We were then ushered outside ~ on the floor was a line of photographers taking a break. On the left and right side are funeral wreaths of white chrysanthemum.

Photo: NewsIS
Photo: NewsIS

And just outside are post-it messages…

Most of them are messages of apology...
Most of them are messages of apology…

I tried to read as much as I could and posted my own note.

When I got out, I headed to the ATM machine at the right side of the Ansan Olympic Hall. It is the building where the media is. I withdrew some money and went back to the main hall. There are envelopes on the table right across where the five moms receiving the donations are. When I dropped the envelope in the box, the women bowed but I couldn’t look at them.

Danwon High School

I decided to go to Danwon High School and I walked slowly. I looked at the buildings and the stores and tried to imagine what it was like for the high school students who perished. When I saw a stationery shop, I imagine that the kids probably have stopped and bought something here before. At the convenience store, I thought that maybe the kids came here to eat “ramyeon” after classes before they go to their “hagwons”.

On the way to Danwon High School are yellow ribbons tied around the trees and bushes. There were policemen patrolling the area. Thursday is the first day that school reopens after the tragedy. Only parents and children studying at the school are allowed inside.

Yellow ribbons on the way to Danwon High School
Yellow ribbons on the way to Danwon High School

Beside the gate of Danwon High School is a memorial…

Taken outside Danwon High School
Taken outside Danwon High School

And here I wrote on a yellow ribbon…

Students tie yellow ribbon outside Danwon High School
Students tie yellow ribbon outside Danwon High School

People left drinks, snacks, notes, pens at the makeshift memorial…

Outside Danwon High School
Outside Danwon High School

I walked slowly back to the main road… imagining the kids. Remembering when I was a high school student myself…

I couldn’t imagine how the parents are feeling. I am not even related to these kids but I feel so heavy.

Ansan is a city in mourning. The times when we visit Ansan is during the International Sky Leisure Expo. We were also there last year and we had fun. Today, there is an eerie silence in the city. All I could hear was the sound of vehicles along the road. People spoke in hushed tones and almost everyone was sniffing, including the men.

To those who want to visit the memorial:

From April 23, the venue is at Ansan Olympic Memorial Hall ~ by subway, Gojan Station on line 4, exit 1. Take the shuttle bus.

From April 29, the venue is at Hwarang Park ~ by subway, Choji Station on line 4, exit 1.

On Sunday, join the Filipino community in Korea through “KAISA ~ A Day of Prayer for Korea“.

3 comments

Leave a Reply