The Mission to Seafarers chaplain in Pusan South Korea, The Revd Simon Ro, has described his work in recent weeks as ‘completely heartbreaking’, as a leading member of one of the first emergency support teams to reach Paengmok Port, Jindo following the sinking of the Sewol ferry which killed 212 people, the majority being high school students. A further 90 passengers are still missing.
Revd Ro was recently elected the President of the Pusan Christian Maritime Association (PUCMA) and includes 7 different maritime ministry organisations. When news first broke about the tragedy unfolding at sea, a team from PUCMA immediately arranged to travel to Jindo to help passengers and crew who survived and offer support to families now bereaved.
Simon said: “We are still in shock over the ferry Sewol disaster since the ship sank on 16 April. It is very sad that the Captain and 22 crew members have been at the centre of public uproar for having allegedly been among the first to be rescued.
Some of the crew have now been arrested and we are all very concerned for them and their families. I understand too the extraordinary grief of the passengers’ families. We have offered them all our services and support at this terrible time.
We have also been made aware that the president of the Korean Register of Shipping and the chairman of the board of the Korean Shipping Association have both resigned in the wake of the disaster. I hope and I pray that this tragedy enables the government and all the shipping agencies and industries in Korea to re-evaluate their plans for seafarer and passenger safety.”
The PUCMA chaplaincy team arrived in Paengmok Port on 18 April from Pusan where they are based to provide people waiting for news of their lost loved ones with counselling, comfort and spiritual support if required.
On the way to the port they went to Hankuk Hospital in Mokpo to support the family of one of the female crew members that died trying to save students trapped on board. Miss Ji-Young Park (22 years old) was found dead at the scene. The team also went to Jindo Gymnasium, which had been turned into a temporary rescue centre, to be with the families of those bereaved.
Revd Ro said: “I am now back in Pusan and we are continuing to follow up with the ITF on behalf of the crew. This has been the most terrible ordeal for those involved and for the South Korean nation as a whole.”
Revd Andrew Wright Secretary General The Mission to Seafarers said: “A major disaster of this nature, particularly involving the very tragic loss of young lives, is extremely traumatic for families and they need as much help as possible.
I am so grateful that PUCMA were able to mobilise a team and get down to the port to offer their considerable expertise in trauma counselling and support. Our thoughts are with all the families who have lost their loved ones at sea.”
The Mission to Seafarers, May 2, 2014