S. Korea Grieves over the Heroic Deaths of a Sewol Ferry Couple

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Wednesday, April 23rd, 2014

Eulogizing the heroic deaths of Kim Ki-woong,Jeong Hyun-seon and Park Jee-young,, Jeong Hyun-seon and Park Ji-young, Korean netizens are gathering signatures on a petition that urges the government to put them on the government’s Good Samaritans List.


A photo of Kim Ki-woong and his fiancée Jeong Hyun-seon together (Note: This photo is offered with the consent of the bereaved families and former Sewol ferry crew member Ro In-kyu)


Kim Ki-woong, who had worked as a part-time operator of shipboard fireworks on the ill-fated Sewol ferry, died together with his fiancée Jeong Hyun-seon, one of the Sewol Ferry crew members, saving passengers from the stricken Sewol ferry, which sank off the coast of Jindo Island on April 21. The couple’s courageous story has brought the nation to tears, motivating Korean netizens to launch an online petition calling on the government to put the couple and 21-year-old Park Ji-young, the youngest Sewol ferry crew member, who also died saving passengers, on the government’s Good Samaritans List.

In the last few minutes before the Sewol Ferry sank, the couple, Kim Ki-woong and Jeong Hyun-seon, could flee from the ferry. But they by witness accounts went downstairs to the cabins to fetch passengers.


A photo of Kim Ki-woong and his fiancée Jeong Hyun-seon together (Note: This photo is offered with the consent of the bereaved families and former Sewol ferry crew member Ro In-kyu)

On the afternoon of April 19, a 40-something man showed up to the funeral room (in the Inha University Hospital Funeral Home in the city of Incheon), where Jeong Hyun-seon was laid in state, and he cried out in sorrow in front of a treasured photo of Jeong Hyun-seon.

The man, one of the Sewol ferry survivors, told Jeong’s grief-stricken mother that he saw Kim Ki-woong and Jeong Hyun-seon yelling at the top of their lungs, ‘Get out of the ferry’ and pushing passengers out of the cabins. “Then, the couple went back to the cabins to save other passengers. And they never came back,” he lamented.

Several students, who were rescued from the Sewol Ferry at the last minute, also visited Jeong’s funeral room to express their condolences to Jeong’s family. A 17-year-old high school student said, “Jeong yelled out ‘Get out, get out!’ and I saw her running back to the cabins to save others.”

Her fiancé Kim Ki-woong, who was on the third floor at that time, sensed the Sewol Ferry listing to one side and then hurriedly woke up his coworkers and helped them flee. And then he went inside the ferry to save passengers trapped in the cabins. He was found dead.

According to Jeong Hyun-seon’s colleagues and family members, she had worked as a ferry crew member for a decade. “She could have escaped from the ferry if she hadn’t looked back, Jeong was nicknamed Warrior Jeong because she was as tough as guys,” they said.

The tears of Jeong’s sister ran down a treasured photo of Jeong. She cried bitterly, talking to herself, “Oh, no! All of your belongings are in the sunken ferry. I got nothing to remember you by.”

Their noble sacrifices further fueled public outrage at other Sewol Ferry crew members, including Sewol ferry captin Lee and other engineers, who abandoned the sinking ferry to get on one of the first rescue boats.

A 54-year-old Seoul resident vehemently expressed anger, saying, “So many Danwon High School students and other crew members died scrambling to save others, but the captain and the chief and third mates fled the sinking ferry, leaving behind all the passengers. Does this make any sense?”


A photo of Park Jee-young (left) and Jeong Hyun-seon (right) together, whose noble deaths touched the nation deeply.


The Sewol ferry couple, who had been going out for four years and planned to tie the knot this year, were laid to rest side by side in a columbarium for cremated remains in Bupyeong, Incheon .

People paid their last respects to the couple, watching their coffins being borne out of the funeral home. And they wished the couple rest in peace in heaven.

Meanwhile, Korean netizens are united in drumming up support for an online petition that urges the government to award the couple and Park Jee-young Good Samaritan awards.

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