As I was trying to stand up after the four-hour interview, my mother, Lim Eun-ju (49), struggled to open her mouth. Her mother’s request is that she wants to know the details of her daughter’s ‘last moments’, even if it means exposing the tragic scene to strangers. She said, “Originally, I wasn’t going to do an interview. Still, I was worried that if the article came out, at least one person would recognize me… I watched the video countless times that day alone, saying that my father would look for his daughter.”
On the 25th of last month, when a dreary autumn rain was falling, every room at Jiyeon’s house in Gwangju was full of children’s belongings, like any other home. From the dried flower bouquet on the drawer, air freshener, Polaroid camera, cosmetics and perfume, lipstick box, and leftover nutritional supplements. The 5-pyeong room where her eldest daughter, Jiyeon, had been living since she was a child until independence was just as it was a year ago. As if Ji-yeon would come back in the evening, throwing open her door and shouting for her “mom”.
But Jiyeon is no longer in Gwangju or Seoul. She said, “We haven’t had a year as a couple. I don’t want to remember how we spent it, I don’t even remember. I’m literally frozen in that day.” Her father Oh Young-kyo (53) swallowed dry saliva.
October 29, 2022 at 11:56 PM. In the safety information letter sent by the Seoul Metropolitan Government, the Itaewon disaster was called an ’emergency accident.’ However, the result was a ‘catastrophe’ that took 159 lives and injured at least 320 people. The casualties were not accidental. The total absurdity of the world, which did not disappear despite numerous social disasters and subsequent reflections, and concentrated its power, struck 159 people while entangled in a narrow alley in Itaewon. The bereaved family still cannot accept why my child, my siblings, had to pass away in such vain there that day. Like Jiyeon’s mom and dad, who walked three steps in the rain for three days and marched 159km in the scorching sun, but are still walking on October 29, 2022.
Oh Ji-yeon, born on June 28, 1999, was a talented child. When she was in her third year of middle school, she was sent to an acting academy, and she soon showed an aptitude for it. She said, “She was so absorbed that she went to class seven days a week. She did acting and even got into modern dance.” She accepted her parents’ concerns that it would not be easy to succeed as an actress, and her dream of appearing on stage has always been in her heart, even after she got a job as a bank intern in February of last year.
that day. The last phone call between Jiyeon and her mother was at 3pm. When she passed the written exam for a full-time job at a bank and said she would go to Itaewon with her friend, her mother said, “Have a nice trip.” She also said that the day before the final interview she would come down to Gwangju and she would take me to the interview site. But that promise was shattered with the breaking news that struck like a thunderbolt in the middle of the night.
‘Presumed stampede accident in Itaewon. ‘Many patients suffer cardiac arrest’.
That was the place Jiyeon said she went to with her friend.
I stayed up all night and boarded the first train to Seoul. I don’t know how many times I tried to call. Someone picked up Jiyeon’s cell phone. It was a police officer who said he only picked up the phone without knowing the child’s whereabouts. There was no sign of popularity in the room I went to after getting off the train. Just when I decided to go to the emergency room, I got a call from the hospital.
It’s a funeral home. “I went there and the detective handed out a ziplock bag full of underwear and socks. You know because I bought them for you. She’s my daughter. ”
To say that my world had collapsed was not enough. Her father quit his job, and her mother started drinking every day. “Every day, when I talk to my daughter at 6 p.m., I habitually dial the phone number. Then I think, ‘That’s right, I shouldn’t call you.’” Even when she walks around the park trying not to show her tears to her older sister, who will be saddened by her older sister’s absence, her composure breaks down when she sees her peers. For a while, when I thought of my daughter, I couldn’t think of her pretty face, only her cold face in the morgue, and there were many times when I hit her chest.
However, for a year, no one could properly explain Jiyeon’s death. On the day Jiyeon was born, her father, who had reported the birth with joy as if he had everything in the world, reported his daughter’s death without knowing when and where she lost her life. “I still haven’t kept my promise to clean up her room and let her go when it’s 100 days old.” Her mom and dad still ride the train to Seoul that she took to look for Jiyeon more than twice a month.
The pain of putting a child first cannot be lessened by an elderly mother who has lived longer. Kim Hyun-sook, the mother of the late Choi Jae-hyuk (47), came down to her hometown to undergo surgery that night. When she heard about her son, she almost fainted and came to Seoul. Keeping her standing on her injured foot wasn’t even a problem. She said, “When I arrived, the funeral home was already set up.”
Jaehyuk was a strong son who filled the void left by his father who passed away three years ago. He was well-versed in trends and published a management book during his graduate school days굿모닝토토. He worked in various fields such as IT and consulting during his lifetime, and eventually worked as a founding member of SLL , a content studio under JTBC . Song Young-jae, a friend of hers for 30 years, explained, “She took such good care of those around her that she was called ‘Jae-hyuk’s mom’ by her friends,” and added, “There was a meeting with her former co-workers that day, so she came to Itaewon.”Hyeonsuk covers her ears to the words, “The living must live.” He soothes his sorrow through prayer, but even the idea that his son’s death may have God’s will does not resonate with him. So her mother goes to her incense burner. “Is it wrong for the children to play in Itaewon? Jaehyuk survived until 10 PM that day and took pictures. Why couldn’t he be rescued by midnight, the ‘time of death’? Why was the 112 call ignored, and why was the disaster text message delayed? “
Hyeong-woo Hyeong (53) also protects the incense burner at Seoul Plaza just because he wants to know the truth. Mr. Yoo, who lost his second daughter Yeonju (21) out of four children in the disaster, took on the role of vice chairman of the steering committee at the Itaewon Disaster Family Council three months ago. “My wife has a hard time even bringing up the story that day. As a father, the last thing I can do for my child is to clear his name. That’s why I decided to participate in the activity.”
For him, the incense burner is a space where he meets performance. A child with a strong vitality who was able to work part-time and study at the same time from early in the morning. The child followed his father exceptionally well and chose computer engineering as his college major, following his father’s old dream. It was difficult for him to accept the fact that he was leaving his daughter like that, so at one point he even got rid of all the photos of him playing in the house. But now, it is a daily routine to have a conversation with his daughter in front of the portrait at the incense burner.Yeon-joo is still the one who stays by dad’s side. On his wrist is a rosary that Yeonju used to wear. “Yeonju was a child with a strong sense of chivalry. He would not ignore anyone who bullied the weak, and his future dream was to become a cybercrime investigator. If he were alive, he would definitely have shouted at those responsible for the disaster, ‘Apologise!’ “In order not to be forgotten, I will stay here to uncover the truth.”