Channel NewsAsia

Gloomy Parents' Day in Ansan amid ferry disaster

May is ‘family month' in South Korea, and prices of flowers surge as demand rises due to Parents' Day, Children’s Day and Teachers' Day. But in Ansan City, not many people are buying them.

SEOUL: May is ‘family month' in South Korea.

Prices of flowers surge as demand rises due to Parents' Day, Children’s Day on May 5 and Teachers' Day on May 15.

But in Ansan City, even with lower prices, not many people are buying them.

The mood is still gloomy in the city, where many of the victims of the “Sewol” ferry disaster were from.

More than 300 passengers are dead or still unaccounted for -- the majority of them teenagers studying in Ansan's Danwon High School.

Investigators have said the ship was three times above its load limit, which is seen as one of the causes for the ship's capsize and sinking on April 16.

Kang Min-joo, who owns a flower shop, said: “Compared to before, I only prepared a small quantity. Usually I sell a lot on May 7 and then come back out on Teachers' Day.

“But this year, I had so many left, and so I am here even today.”

She added business has dipped 30 per cent compared to last year, as the city has cancelled most of its festivals and events for this month.

Those who did buy flowers said they felt a heavy burden.

One said: “I bought this carnation because I wanted to show my gratitude to my parents.

"But it's not a joyous time because of the current situation. There's still the impact of this disaster.”

In Ansan, yellow ribbons -- now the symbol of mourning -- have replaced flowers and festivals.

Outside Danwon High School, friends and people from across the nation have left messages and presents for the dead and missing students.

One of them is a bouquet on Parents' Day for a missing female student, Ji-in, and her mother, who awaits news.

There is a message attached to the bouquet:

“Hey Ji-in, it must be very cold there -- why are you still there? I want to see your pretty and smiling face again so much.

"To Ji-in’s mother, let's keep strong a little longer. Ji-in will be back home soon.”

This Parents' Day, the roles have been reversed.

It is the mothers and fathers of the departed who commemorate their children’s lives.

Hearses drive in and out of the school, as parents want their children to see their classrooms for one last time before they are buried.

Out of the 339 students and teachers onboard, only 77 survived, and 27 remain missing.

At a memorial altar in Ansan City, pictures and names of those who died in the disaster can be seen, and people from across the nation have come to pay their last respects.

Pinned to their chests are yellow ribbons, and not carnation corsages, as is the tradition on Parents' Day.

One volunteer said she received carnations from her children, but she left them at home.

“When I saw them, I cried so much because it hurts. Imagine how much pain these parents must feel today. I think what they are feeling now is unimaginable to all of us,” she said.

That is why many Koreans are saying this year's month of May is not a 'family month', but a 'brutal month'.  

Tweet Photos, Videos and Update on this Story to  #cna