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NY subway killing

Posted December. 07, 2012 07:52,   


A vulture looking at a starving girl. South African photographer Kevin Carter took the famous photo of a girl crouching out of hunger while a vulture watched her as if she was its prey for the day. Carter captured on camera the baby girl, who was too weak to make it to a nearby relief center while covering the 1993 Sudan famine. The heart-breaking scene awakened the world to the calamity and won Carter the 1994 Pulitzer Prize. Being under fire for not helping the girl, however, he committed suicide three months after winning the prize.

Similar criticism has hit the photographer who took a picture of a man about to be hit by a train in the New York subway Monday. Han Ki-seok, a 58-year-old Korean-American man, was pushed by a black vagrant onto the tracks and was run over by a train. A picture taken moments before the tragedy entitled, “Pushed on the subway track, this man is about to die,” appeared Tuesday on the front page of the tabloid New York Post. R. Umar Abbasi, the freelance Post photographer who took the picture, told NBC News, “I was shocked to see people close enough to help him wouldn’t try to pull him up.”

On why he took photos instead of saving the man, he said, “I was too far away from the guy, so I began firing off my flash, hoping the driver could see my flash.” Yet this has not stopped criticism that Abbasi did nothing to stop the man`s death. The New York Times said in an article “After Fatal Subway Shove, Asking: Were There No Heroes?” that the incident not only angered many people but also was cause for self-reflection by Americans. No superheroes like Batman or those in Hollywood movies came to save the day. Han was pushed and fell on the tracks while trying to stop the vagrant, but people nearby instead took pictures of the scene with their cellphones instead of helping.

Residents in big cities live among strangers and mostly believe that helping someone unknown to them could lead to bad consequences. Regardless of the reason, if the people nearby had time to take out their cellphones, they surely had time to save Han’s life. How would they feel if one of their relatives was killed in the same manner? How disappointing to see Americans, who are known for their advanced sense of responsibility and their love of heroes, do nothing to help a dying man. Han’s tragic death is a reminder of the evils of heartless urban life and yellow journalism.

Editorial Writer Chung Sung-hee (shchung@donga.com)