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SEOUL — Following the devastating ferry accident off the coast of South Korea on April 16, students from Danwon High School, whose 325 classmates were among the 476 passengers aboard the wrecked ship, immediately began decorating their campus with yellow ribbons as a symbolic gesture of hope for the safe return of their schoolmates.
The rest of grief-stricken South Korea has since followed suit, with citizens hanging yellow ribbons at various memorial sites across the country and sharing photos and drawings of handmade ribbons online.
Many social media users have also adopted yellow ribbon images as their profile photos.
The gesture is believed to have been inspired by an anecdote about an American woman who hung a yellow ribbon to pray for the safe return of her husband during World War II. Ten days after the disaster, only 75 students had made it to shore alive, as the site of the accident, already notorious for its strong currents, has been hit by bad weather, hampering rescue efforts.
Several artistically inclined K-pop stars and actors have offered their own renditions of yellow ribbon images, for fans to download and share, including singer/actress Shim Eum-jin, actress Ha Yeon-soo, broadcaster Lee Hwa-seon, actress Ha Ji-woo and pop band Big Star. Others, including members of pop groups 2AM and 2NE1 and model Byeon Jung-soo, are using yellow ribbon images as their own profile photos.
Some celebrities have stepped to make donations for the families of survivors and victims of the accident. Actors Kim Soo-hyun, Song Seung-hun and YG Entertainment head Yang Hyun-suk [who’s executive produced material by Psy], among others, have offered financial aid to victims’ families. Popera singer Lim Hyung-joo announced that he will be donating all proceeds from his new song “A Thousand Winds” to the effort, while veteran pop composer Ilsang Yoon dedicated a new song “Budi” — which can be roughly translated as “Please” — to victims.
“From a psychological point of view, this seems to be the first time since the 2002 World Cup games that the entire country has fallen into such a mass state of group emotion,” a Seoul National University Hospital psychologist told Kyunghyang Shinmun. He pointed out how virtually every Korean had worn red T-shirts to cheer for the country’s 2002 national soccer team, which eventually made it to the final four in the Korea-Japan World Cup.
“Unfortunately this is the complete opposite [from the excitement 12 years ago],” the psychologist added.
Meanwhile, massive rescue efforts are underway as 117 people remain missing. So far 185 have been found dead, while 174 have been rescued.
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