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Businesses reel from ferry tragedy

Posted April. 28, 2014 02:05,   


“We are open but effectively closed. Nevertheless, we cannot afford to complain considering the mood (due to the Sewol’s sinking)”

The couple of Lee Jeong-ran, 57, and Choi Seon-jin, 60, who owns two tourist buses and drives them in person, stopped working lately. They have had cancellations of dozens of reservations to charter their buses for school field trips, and company picnics. In the months of April and May, the peak season in ordinary years, tourists have cancelled reservations this year, saying, “We feel guilty about going on trips amid solemn social mood these days.”

“It was last Tuesday when I last drove my bus carrying tourists to Wonju and returned. There were many empty seats in the bus,” Lee said. “Even those who went on the trip said ‘they set out due to reservation,’ and people were in solemn mood throughout the day amid conversation about the Sewol’s sinking and children.” The couple said, “To join the social mood of mourning although belatedly, we will refrain from operating our tourism business for the time being.”

More than 10 days have passed since the Sewol sank, but the Korean society is still in deep sorrow and reeling from the tragedy. Many citizens say, "I feel guilty about going shopping and taking tours," and "I feel uncomfortable even about spending time doing daily routines." Tourist hotspots, hotels and bars, which used to be crowded with people around this time of spring, have seen visitors noticeably shrink due to such a mood.

On Friday evening last week, areas around Gwanghwamun and Jongno in central Seoul, which had been jam-packed with office-workers in ordinary times, looked relatively desolate. Hong Soo-jin, 42, a manager at a meat restaurant in Seorin-dong, Jongno, said, “Sales have declined by about 40 percent from ordinary days. Group reservations for 60 seats and 50 seats were cancelled soon after the accident.”

Kim Gyeong-yoon, 57, who runs a meat restaurant and karaoke bar in the district, said, “Business is really slow. Even when several people come, they only grumble while drinking. It seems that the mood of condolences will continue for a considerable period of time,” adding, “Since I also feel deeply sympatric as if they are my own children, I cannot even afford to complain about slow business."

Since some citizens even cancel family gatherings to join the mood of mourning for the victims, related businesses are also in downbeat mood. A source at Intercontinental Hotel in Seoul said, “Our restaurant operation has received many cancellation notices of small family gatherings, while the banquet operation is only conducting business banquets as scheduled, and participants take time for mourning before opening their events.” Lotte World and Everland amusement parks have also decided that they skip some performances and events in the wake of the Sewol’s sinking. Lotte World has posted worlds of condolences on its website, saying, “Since the entire nation is in deep sadness, the company will also join this national mood to express condolences.”

Some cautiously suggest that while Korea should thoroughly prepare countermeasures and pay respects to the victims, the society should gradually return to daily routines. A Twitterian identified by “ba***” said, “This is not an incident where people can cry and forget about it for a moment, and let’s return to daily routines while mourning in our heart.” Another Twitterian “you***” said, “While returning to daily routines, let’s remember them, and continue to change our society with a heavy heart.”