As I signed on to the Internet today, the headline read Korea Inferno Horror . I read the story, shocked. Tragic events happen all over the globe, unfortunately almost continuously. But when the tragedy occurs in a place that is personal to you, a place that has become a part of you, a place where you still have friends, it is numbing.
I recognized the charred subway station. I remembered riding in the packed cars. I wondered who the 124 victims were. I grieved for their families.
The one thing that stood out while I resided in Daegu was the absence of crime, homelessness, beggars, and violent acts so common in a city of two and a half million people compacted in a tiny area. Sure, I fielded my share of harassing remarks from men (mostly older, married men) wanting to become “special friends” or “sexual partners” with the tall miguk (American) woman. But I never felt unsafe. There wasn’t the annoying harshness that normally accompanies big city living. I found Korea to be a closed society – one in which I didn’t make friends quickly or easily, but also one in which people were respectful, keeping to themselves and their families. Violent crime was a plot in a bad movie, not an everyday occurrence.
The officials of Daegu are using this tragedy to better prepare the city for potential terrorist attacks. They are making plans to increase security, replace train cars with non-flammable materials, and install more closed circuit televisions. Security, however, is not the main concern of the families of the victims. “The government is not hurrying up with the investigation,” Kang Mee-ja cried as she and other family members looked on the remains of cars incinerated in an arson attack. “As her daughter, I just want to bury her quickly.” I hope you get your wish, Kang Mee-ja.