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Black Christmas

Posted December. 25, 2007 07:00,   


On the morning of December 7, Ji Jong-sang (64) and wife Kim Chun-ja (60) wolfed down an early breakfast and prepared for a day of anchovy fishing near Cheollipo Beach in South Chungcheong Province.

The anchovy fishing season, which starts in mid-August, was nearing its end, and this year’s haul didn’t meet expectations, so the couple was eager to make haste.

Preparing lunch snacks and fishing nets, however, a foul stench filled the air. Feeling uneasy, Kim headed to the boiler room. Everything was in working order. Ji wondered if the boat was leaking fuel, and ran toward the vessel. There appeared to be nothing wrong. The husband and wife boarded the boat, thoroughly mystified.

Just 24 hours later, disaster struck.

On the morning of December 8, dread filled Ji’s heart as he looked out over the ocean that he had sailed for 60 years. The fatally blackened sea was regurgitating globs of oil.

Nearby residents started fighting against the encroaching oil slick, armed with just a single pail each. Hundreds of thousands of pails later, the slick had covered the coast and was seeping deeper into the beach and the embankment. As time passed, the disaster and misery only spread wider.

Their children begged them to pack up and evacuate, fearing that their parents would contract illnesses from the pollution.

“We invested millions of won for new nets, so how can we leave?”

But now the residents who fought against the blackening sea are seeing a new ray of hope. Volunteers are coming from across the country for the holidays, offering their hands and hearts.