The Sewol Ferry tragedy is one of the most devastating disasters ever to afflict South Korea. On April 16, 2014, the Sewol ferry, carrying passengers from Incheon to Jeju Island, capsized due to supposed mismanagement by the ship's crew, claiming the lives of 304 people out of 476 passengers and crew members. 250 people who died in the Sewol Ferry tragedy were schoolchildren on a trip to Jeju Island.
The political handling of this tragedy still sparks outrage amongst the citizens of South Korea. Despite evidence of phone conversations between the victims and their loved ones, the administration of the conservative party member, President Park Geun-hye, tried to cover up the truth and imposed heavy blacklisting of all individuals who spoke out about the incident.
The government tried to downplay its role and lack of initiative in uncovering the truth behind the unexpected tragedy. Many believe the disaster could have been avoided and more lives saved if not for the incompetent crew managing the evacuation.
At a time when speaking about the Sewol Ferry tragedy was considered a crime, a few Korean musicians stood up for the victims and their families and expressed their solidarity through their songs.
3 songs that pay tribute to the lives lost in the Sewol Ferry tragedy
1) Spring Day - BTS
Although the group never outright expressed the true meaning behind their song Spring Day, BTS did confirm to Esquire magazine that the song was based on an unfortunate event in South Korean history.
Despite being a rookie group and knowing they could be blacklisted, BTS decided to release a heartfelt and commemorative song of hope and longing, which has now become the representative song for this horrific incident.
Lyrics such as "I miss you. How much longer should I wait and how many sleepless nights should I spend before I get to see you? Before I get to meet you?" express the desperation the family and friends of the victims felt to be able to see their loved ones just one more time.
The lyric "even for a day, I haven't forgotten you" expresses the singular plea of the survivors of the Sewol Ferry tragedy: to always remember the victims who passed away in the tragic accident.
BTS sprinkled imagery of solidarity throughout the music video by tying yellow ribbons, symbols of hope and defiance, to a carousel with the words You Never Walk Alone written on it.
Through their song, the group promised the people of South Korea that even though the darkness of the disaster looms, "spring day" will come soon, as no darkness can last forever. Since the song's release in 2017, Spring Day has never left the Melon Charts and is one of the most-loved songs in South Korea.
The song has also helped many international fans learn the gravity of the situation, some of whom have even reached out to the victims' families to offer whatever help they can, just like BTS.
2) There Must Be - Joo Hyo and HA:TFELT
Joo Hyo and HA:TFELT never explicitly mentioned that their song, There Must Be, was about the Sewol Ferry tragedy. However, anyone who listens to the lyrics of the song can feel the pain and anger related to the disaster that the singers tried to convey through the song.
The lyric "small movements can create a big miracle" seems to highlight the Yellow Ribbon Campaign that the citizens of South Korea conducted to remember the victims of the tragedy and unite the nation in this grand suffering. Everyone that took part in the campaign wore yellow ribbons to show support for the victims and their families.
However, with the terrible management of the disaster by the government, the campaign grew into a movement of open resistance. This led to the revolutionary impeachment of the then South Korean President, Park Geun-hye. This shows that something can always be done when everything seems hopeless.
3) Always Remember - TANY
TANY chose a weighty and controversial topic to speak out about for his debut song. He was very open about his opinions and feelings regarding the Sewol Ferry tragedy and channeled those emotions into his song Always Remember.
With lyrics like "adding more pain to the pain, I'm still waiting for you," TANY used his song to immortalize the memories of the souls that were lost on April 16, 2014. TANY explained that he chose such a heavy subject for his first release because the tragedy resonated with him.
The Sewol Ferry tragedy took the lives of people his age, and he desperately wanted everyone to hear the truth of the disaster, despite the consequences. Unfortunately, after releasing this masterpiece, the singer soon passed away in a car accident.
While April 16 is a dark day in South Korean history, it is also a testament to the strength of the people of South Korea, who fought and won against a corrupt government. The victims of the Sewol Ferry tragedy cannot be brought back, but these songs have immortalized them in everyone's memories.