Koreans in Delaware react to sinking of South Korean ferry

Listen

Thousands of miles away, many Delaware residents with Korean ancestry are following the news of a tragic ferry accident off the coast of South Korea.

“There is a lot of talk going on [about] how tragic it is, and we’re all praying for the parents,” said Daniel Cho, associate pastor of the Delaware Korean United Methodist Church in Hockessin. 

The ferry was en route to South Korean tourist spot Jeju Island when it capsized and sank during its overnight trip. Most of its 462 passengers were high-school students.

According to the most recent update from CNN, six persons were confirmed dead, with 179 rescued. Nearly 300 people remain unaccounted for.

“We feel for the parents because we have [such] strong feelings about children, and how we bring up the children, [and] how much children mean to us as a family,” Cho said.

In Asian cultures, Cho explained, children are highly valued because they are expected to continue the culture and carry on the family name.

“We focus on education, how we bring up kids and how they should honor and respect others, especially elders,” he said. “So when an accident where children are involved [occurs], we get very emotional about it because we feel especially for the parents.”

Cho said none of his 350 congregants know of any relatives or friends on the ferry so far, but added that whenever any bad news comes out of the East Asian peninsula, it affects the community deeply.

According to the the U.S. Census Bureau, there were 2,540 Koreans living in Delaware in 2010 when the last census was taken. 

“Even though we’re so far away from the country…we still have a lot of connections whether it be friends or relatives still living back in the old country,” Cho said. “Many of us from our church go back very often, anywhere from two to three years we go back to visit. So there is a strong tie and connection with that country.”

Local television stations showed pictures of the ship listing and slowly sinking as passengers jumped into the frigid water before being lifted to safety by helicopters. Before the ship overturned completely, rescuers also pulled passengers on the sides of the ship to safety.

An emergency official said the water temperature in the area is approximately 54 degrees. 

Some 160 divers have been searching for possible survivors in water that was described by on-scene officials as being muddy, with poor visibility.

Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

It will take 126,000 members this year for great news and programs to thrive. Help us get to 100% of the goal.