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Painful February

Posted February. 16, 2005 22:52,   


Unhealed Trauma—

Park (24), a university student, lost her friend in the subway fire tragedy of Daegu in February 2003. “February is supposed to mean a fresh new start with the new year, but every February since then, I can’t think straight and feel so stuffy that I can’t do anything,” she said.

Reverend Kim (43), who also lost his 16-year-old only daughter in the fire, left the city and now is living in a farming village in Yeongcheon of Northern Gyeongsang Province. He runs a deer farm there.

Lee (28) narrowly survived the dark and smoke-filled subway station, but the shock he had to endure was so grave that he suffered from darkness phobia and insomnia. He always has to leave the light on in his living room.

“Survivors who had respiratory burns due to the fire have suffered chronic otorhinolaryngological disorders such as voice impediments. Many of them even have depression and other mental illnesses,” said Lee Dong-woo (62), chairman of the survivals committee.

“I always hope that the families of the victims can overcome their nightmares as soon as possible and return to their occupations in order to go on living. However, it seems very difficult due to many reasons,” said Kim Dhal-won (43), who represents the victims’ families.

Systematic Psychotherapy Program is Needed—

Psychiatrists point out that the government, when compensating victims and their families for such massive tragedies, must consider relief countermeasures in terms of not only material but also mental assistance.

Professor Choi Ung-yong of Daegu University, professor Kim Chun-kyeong of Kyungpook National University, and other psychiatrists recently announced that they have introduced a “crisis counseling program” to 17 people from victims’ families and that the program has been proven to relieve trauma.

According to the study, the families, even two years after the tragedy, still experience a series of problematic symptoms such as pounding heartbeats, sluggishness, nightmares or reviving the given situation, anxiety or fear, and sudden violent anger.

Experts conducted 10 times of counselings (90-minutes each) to the family members with using 10 kinds of measures, including role-playing game and solution finding. As a result, the anger and anxiety that they exhibited have dramatically reduced.

“There has been temporary voluntary psychotherapy for families of victims to the Daegu subway tragedy and the collapse of Sampoong Department Store. Now is the time for the government to take active steps to adopt psychotherapy or related countermeasure programs.”