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Warm Hands of Help

Posted December. 10, 2004 22:26,   


“We will be apart for a while, but since we are close friends, we will meet again in heaven when we grow up. Until then, farewell…Goodbye, my friend.”

In Room 1-3 of Gangdong Elementary School in Cheonho-dong, Gangdong-gu, on the morning of December 10, Ahn Gun-gyu (age 8) wrote these words on the blackboard, with an awkward but clear handwriting.

Heavy silence prevailed, unlike a classroom filled with young students.

So was the atmosphere in Room 4-8, which was some distance away from this classroom.

These were the classrooms in which two children, aged 11 and 8, had been studying in until two days ago. They were the older two of three siblings who died from a fire at home on December 9 while their father, who was a policeman, was out on night duty and their mother was out delivering newspapers.

The students, who were mourning for their friend even after the funeral, agreed to hold a special Christmas event this morning. They had decided to write Christmas cards to the friend who will never come back.

“Aren’t you cold? I remember you playing with your brother. If I had the ability to turn back time, I would turn it back to 4:50 a.m. December 9. We all cried when you went away. I wish I could see you once more. I wish you would appear in my dreams for once…Your friend, Ye-jin.”

“I can’t believe you died just because of the smoke. I cried so much at your funeral. I still cry whenever they mention you…Your friend forever, Mi-sun.”

All of the cards written by the students of Room 4-8 will be hung on a Christmas tree in the classroom.

Meanwhile as news of the three unfortunate siblings spread, there have been continuous visits by people from various quarters and warm hands of help from the citizens, at the mourning room in Gangdong Sacred Heart Hospital located in Gil-dong, Gangdong-gu. On December 9, Lee Boo-young, chairman of the Uri Party, and Seoul Metropolitan Police Agency Chief Huh Joon-young visited the mourning room, followed by Presidential Chief of Staff Kim Woo-shik, Senior Secretary to the President of Civil Affairs Moon Jae-in, and Chief of Presidential Security Service Lee Taek-soon, who came on behalf of President Roh Moo-hyun.

Also, Chief of the Korean National Police Agency Choi Gi-moon, Democratic Labor Party leader Kim Hye-gyung, and Representatives Shim Sang-jung and Lee Young-soon also came to the funeral to express their grief to the family.

Park Hong-gwi (age 41), leader of the Kia Motors workers union, said, “Though we do not know them, our union members decided to give some help,” and delivered three million won and funeral equipment.

Also, other groups such as Seoul Metropolitan Police Agency and Gangdong Elementary School are holding fundraising activities and people are continuously calling Seoul police and the media, expressing their will to support the mourning family.

Bank account of Corporal Geum, father of the three children: Woori Bank, 3751-5496-102-002.

Yang-Hwan Jung ray@donga.com