Updated August. 29, 2005 03:07
Those responsible for the incident should be brought to justice.
It has been one year since the end of the school hostage crisis in Beslan, North Ossetia in southern Russia (September 1-3, 2004) that took the lives of 186 children. Nevertheless, the anger and sorrow of mothers who undeservedly lost their children has still not gone away.
These mothers have organized the Committee of Beslan Mothers and continued rallies calling for an investigation into who was responsible for the incident. As public pressure has grown with their protests, Russian President Vladimir Putin suggested a meeting, asking the mothers to come to the Kremlin on September 2.
Marina Park (39), the co-representative of the committee and the mother of the only Korean resident victimized in the crisis, Svetlana Choi (12-years-old at that time), said in an exclusive telephone interview with Dong-A Ilbo on August 29 that she would not only reject President Putins proposal for a meeting but also refuse to participate in the government-led memorial ceremony scheduled on September 3. She believes that the authorities apology and fact-finding efforts should come first.
The last year has transformed Park from an ordinary mother into a fighter. For over 10 days after the incident, she could not find the dead body of her daughter, Svetlana, or her whereabouts. Only after a genetic test did she manage to find her daughter, totally burned into an unidentifiable figure, and buried six feet underground. Victor, the father of Park who prayed for the safe return of his only grand-daughter, passed away a few days later in resentment. Out of shock, Park also eventually quit the boutique she had been working for. The only thing that the Russian government has so far provided was 3,000 dollars (approximately 3.09 million won) in compensation.
What made Park more infuriated was the insincere attitude of the Russian authorities. The authorities killed 31 suspects and arrested one on the spot, but they have failed to catch any of the 20 to 30 perpetrators who ran away. The mastermind of the incident still remains unidentified. No relevant government officials took responsibility for the attack.
The then head of the police was promoted to Moscow in what is seen as praise for effectively dealing with the emergency. Even the fire department chief, who refused to go into action even though the school was on fire, citing that he had not been ordered to by superior authorities, was promoted. In protest, Park and others have taken to the streets starting December of last year, but they have faced a string of pressures and appeasement measures from relevant agencies. Park also expressed her frustration, saying that she had been suffering from telephone wiretapping.
Park, who says she always taught her daughter not to forget you are a kareyenka (Korean woman), also felt frustrated about the indifference of her grandfathers nation.
I heard that the Korean government sent relief money after the incident, but except for some relatives living all across the former Soviet Union, nobody from the mother country has sent a word of consolation to us.
Park wept, saying that she had never felt it this lonely to be neither Russian nor Korean.