The sinking of ferry Sewol was tragic that should never have happened.
When I heard the news that day in Seoul, I panicked and sticked in front of the TV the whole day. I returned to Tokyo after several days, and heard news of it every day there. As a person living in a neighbor country, I also had to endure painful days.
The most heart-breaking news was the video showing students talking to each other in a sharply tilting ship. They were saying, "The ship will sink," "Are we going to die?" "I`m afraid," "Love you mom and dad."
What should have been an exciting school trip turned into a tragedy and the future of children was disappearing minute by minute. But all they could hear was "Don`t move." Their conversation along with the video of the sinking ferry will be remembered as Korea`s biggest tragedy by the next generations.
So many problems have been disclosed. Why did the ferry make additional rooms on the top? Why did it carry unbelievable amounts of cargo ignoring the weight limit and still acted so unconcerned? Why did the officers in the port turned back on the sinking ferry? Why wasn`t the cargo fixed?
Why did the captain have immature mate drive the ship and took a rest himself? Why did the captain and crews neglect the duty to properly guide passengers escape? Why did they broadcast not to come out of the cabins? How in earth could the captain lead escape of himself and crews when students were locked up? Why haven`t they joined distress training?
Why was maritime police so slow in rescue? Was it right to reject rescue support proposals from Japan and elsewhere?
All these questions were already raised in Korea in detail. Some people may consider a Japanese is rubbing salt in the wounds. But I need to be frank so I can say things further. I send my deepest sympathy to the victims and at the same time would like to say, "Korea, you could have done better."
I first came to Korea in 1979 and the country saw many sad incidents since then. The Gwangju democratic movement encountered military pointing guns at civilians. There were Aung San incident suffering from North Korean terrorism, and bombing of Korean Air. Most recently, there were Cheonan navy vessel sinking and firing on Yeonpyeong Island. Whenever a tragic incident happened, I deeply sympathized with Korean people.
Not this time. There was neither firing nor bombing. The ferry was not swayed by a hurricane and wasn`t facing any underwater obstacle. The tragedy took place broad daylight, which killed precious lives.
Korea has a conscription system. Patriotism seems to surpass Japan in depth. However, people`s lives were treated carelessly. Work ethics were so poor. The enemy was within themselves. Can Korea save itself and its people in emergency situations?
Despite some anti-sentiment against Korean people within Japan, more people still feel close to Koreans. The latest tragedy has disappointed Japanese people who are fond of Koreans.
Yet Koreans must have taken this tragedy most hard. While lamenting about their country, people are blaming the nation that took lives of young students. I had never seen Koreans criticize themselves this much.
The tragedy gave an opportunity for Korea to fundamentally re-examine its reality. It needs to rebuild its society with its own hands. Korea should regain what`s lost and create new out of it.
When massive earthquake devastated Japan three years ago, Korean people sent warm hopes to Japanese people. We Japanese would like to return their sincerity and give our warmest hope.