What Must Have Happened In the Last Hour In Sewol

Sewol, a Korean passenger ferry, sank. Until this moment, the number of the lost counts 188. The death toll reached 114. Only 174 were rescued. What makes us sadder is that most of the lost and the dead are young student, the second grade in high school. They are the same age with the junior in the education system in the US. Most of them are seventeen years old; even though Koreans count their age eighteen. Koreans count age as soon as the baby is born; it can be understood as they count the ten months in the womb of the mother as a part of the life. Anyway, most of the students were eighteen years old in Korean age, and seventeen in American age.

The young people of the age are mostly pure in heart. They are obedient to their parents and to their teachers. Some Western writers are attempting to make the obedient attitude of the young Korean kids as a psychological cause of the tragedy. They say the obedient attitude originated from the Confucianistic culture of Korea. Nobody can deny it absolutely for Korea was an Asian country that valued the Confucianism for a long time in history at least until my parents’ generation, who are almost in their last years or passed already. However, their view is not mostly true, because the Confucianism has had almost no considerable influence to Koreans even since my generation, who is about 30 years older than the lost students. Therefore, it is much truer with the young generations, that their attitude does not have almost nothing to do with the Confucianism. Rather, the attitude is out of the students themselves. I mean, they themselves, according to their own culture and mindset, decided how to behave in such situation and they followed their own decision.

As I mentioned in another article (“The Confucianism Theory, Making the Innocent Victims a Scapegoat“), the “Daeu” must have been a factor that influenced their behavior. Daeu means righteousness, for it describes of the spirit of a person who acts for the good of the most people. Actually, the word, literally translated, means “great righteousness.” As righteousness is not unique to Eastern people, the Daeu either. On my best knowledge of the Western history, I have heard, seen, and read about the Western people who behaved in the Daeu in various cases. The culture of the US seems to elevate those who acted in the Daeu to their heroes. I think American people are so respectful to those who behave in righteousness, that is, for the good of many others. There is more important thing we have to remember in understanding the tragedy than to just know that the victims behaved in the Daeu. It is what must have been brought about in the last hour in the ship as they breathed their last.

It was known to the world that there were many Christians among the lost. If not all, most of them must be righteous ones. The righteous ones were captivated in the hour of tragedy with the others. Even though such accident should not have happened at all, it happened unfortunately. The tragedy was coming to those captivated in the sinking ship. They were not all non-Christians but some of them were true Christians. Both the Christians and non-Christians were captivated in the sinking ship. The shipwreck was a big accident and the losing the people captivated at the accident was a biggest tragedy. However, there is a thing we can be positive even in the heartbreaking grief of loss. It is from the fact that there were Christians in the ship at the moment of the crisis in the tragedy.

It is reported that the passengers who are lost were waiting for the rescue in calmness. However, the rescue did not come in time. As the time passed by and the water was coming up to them, even if they did not dismiss the hope to be rescued, actually it was fading out. They trusted their motherland and the authorities who (were supposed to) have the capability to rescue their people in such accidents. They learned not only in school and home but also from media that the government, army, police, and 119 (911 in Korea) rescue team would act responsibly and rightly to save the victims. Many of them must have watched the movie, “The Tower” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Tower_(film)), published in 2012, and believed what the movie told about 119 rescuing activity would be the standard of all other rescuing activity of the authorities—in the movie, the leader of the rescue crew sacrificed his life to save more. Some of them also would have remembered the specialized navy rescuing team, such as UDT and USS. And many would have trusted the official coastguard ships, which had demonstrated their campaign capability in a recent TV show, “The True Men (진짜사나이).” Therefore, nobody should rebuke them for they had trusted their governmental authorities and waited for the rescue in such a calmness. It is a rebuke of the innocence of the victims, which was absolutely right; such ignorant rebuke is an insulting to the innocent victims and a inhuman cruelty to the families of the lost.

The calmness of the victims gave me this idea: They had realized that their trust was betrayed in the last hour as the hope was fading faster but the authorities did not come to there rescue. In the hour, they must have decided what to do. Beside all efforts to get out of the ship, what they must have done in advance just in case must have been prayer. The Christians, Christian friends and teachers, must have offered all to pray for deliverance. And in such situation, they must have prayed together. Even if it might not have been an hour ahead of the last minute to them, before the last second had come, they must have prayed according to the offers of the Christian friends and teachers. There must be many who had been resistant to Christianity in their normal lives, as many are so now. However, in such an urgent and perilous moment, with the hope fading out so fast out of their sight, their resistance to the gospel in the normal life could not have stayed as firm in their pure heart as in their normal lives. Rather their prayer must have been desperate as the situation was so. Their heart must not have had any blemish but purity and innocence. They must have believed the power of the One to whom they were praying. They must have had such strong faith in God, with nothing to rely on but the hope in him.

The hope saves those who hope in God (Romans 8:24). The hope is almost all about the gospel. People will not be saved as they do not set their hope truly in God. However, the lost in the ship must have put their hope in God’s salvation in the last moment. With the hope in their pure heart, they were immersed in the cold water out of which no one has been raised by now. It was not only the cold water in which they were immersed, but the extreme suffering in last a few days since the accident of the ship. The crossed over the turbulent water of suffering and hardship in their last days. They were baptized not only in the cold water but also in the tribulation, as they must have believed in God.

I believe this idea with all my heart. There must have been many who actually did this in the last hour of their lives. This idea is not just an empty imagination while there were Christians together with others lost, who must have worked to the last minute for eternal salvation of all. As I got the reports from media that they behaved in a calmness, I believe this is what happened in the last hour. This idea gives me the hope of salvation of many of the lost in Sewol, probably most of them. However, it is not the only thing it gives me; it gives me an insight of how one should be saved. One should overcome tribulations and hardships to be saved (Acts 14:22). In other words, eternal salvation does not come without them (2 Tim. 3:12). The lost in Sewol must have been saved, as they must have heard the gospel and believed it in the last hour. They must have passed the tribulation in the hope of salvation in God, being immersed in the cold water. Therefore, they must have been saved by the grace of God in their faith. The praise be to him who is able to save the lost even in a moment as they believe in him and the gospel, and consolation from heaven to the lost and the families of them.

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