Jindo, South Korea • A bicycle, never ridden. A lipstick prank pulled off by old friends. Mother-daughter conversations that now burn in the memory, laden with regret.
Among the 302 people dead or missing in last week’s South Korean ferry disaster, there are a multitude of stories. Here are just a few:
Hye-son’s mother, Lim Son-mi, says the 16-year-old wanted to be a television screenwriter. But Lim’s wages from working at a daycare center meant she didn’t have enough money to send her younger daughter to the writing academy she’d wanted to attend. Her older daughter was already pursuing music and art, tuition for which was not cheap.
"I told her, ‘Let’s see after your sister is done with her education,’" Lim, 50, recounted.
"I’m so sorry now that I said that. I wish she had been born in a rich family that could give her what she wanted."
Hye-son, who remains missing, was among the 323 students from Danwon High School in Ansan, near Seoul, who were aboard the ferry Sewol on a trip to the southern island of Jeju.
Sometimes she and Lim clashed, as teenage daughters and their mothers often do. But it is painful for Lim to look back on those moments now.
Once, she recounted, her daughter yelled, "I just want to die." Lim, in a fit of anger, responded, "Then why don’t you go and die?"
"She liked her dad more than her mom," Lim said, tears rolling down her face. "I’ve done nothing for her."
In an unusual gesture, Hye-son texted her a few days before the school trip to say, "Mom, I miss you." Lim said she wrote back in jest, "You must be kidding!"
Lim even berates herself for not insisting that her daughter eat a full breakfast the morning she left home the last time. She had a serving of yogurt instead.
"I’m sorry I wasn’t a good mother," she said.
Hyun-chul’s parents poured their energy, love and attention into their only child, said an uncle of the 16-year-old, Lee Jong-eui. Though an overseas education is often pricey, his parents had sent him to school in New Zealand for a while. It was only last year that he returned to South Korea and started going to Danwon High, where he excelled in English.
He loved baseball and basketball, and Lee would often take him to baseball games. "He’s a very positive child. He is not the kind of kid who is shy and can’t go out," Lee said.
Hyun-chul, who is among the missing, went to church regularly and had many friends in the community. He would do volunteer work with the church on weekends and during school vacations, Lee said.
Two weeks before the trip, Hyun-chul visited his uncle.
"He was very excited about the trip" to Jeju, Lee said. "We gave him our blessings and told him to have fun and stay safe.Next Page >
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