SEOUL- The desperate, tragically fruitless search for survivors of South Korea’s ferry disaster has so far overshadowed the damaging psychological legacy inflicted on those who managed to escape the sinking vessel.
A total of 174 passengers and crew survived the capsize of the 6,825-tonnes Sewol a week ago, that left around 300 people dead or missing.
Among them were 75 students from Danwon High School, who must now try and rebuild lives shattered by the trauma not just of the incident itself but also the loss of around 250 of their classmates.
Doctors treating the teenage survivors say 20 percent have exhibited signs of post traumatic stress disorder and could require long-term counseling and psychiatric help.
Jang Dong-Woon, a father speaking on behalf of other parents of the students who survived, told reporters that their children should also be recognized as victims, and not just labelled “lucky” survivors.
“They say they feel like sinners,” Jang said, describing an overbearing sense of survivors’ guilt among many of the students.
“We should take responsibility for and take care of all of them — those who are still missing, those who are dead and those who have survived,” he said.
Some of the children are so traumatized that they even have difficulty being close to windows, fearing “that the water will suddenly rush in,” he added.
A total of 352 Danwon High students were on the ferry and the huge loss of life has devastated the city of Ansan, south of Seoul, where the school is located.