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04/30/2018 Special > Opinion


0416, Four Years Later

A documentary movie on the Sewol Ferry


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On the 16th of April 2014, the Sewol Ferry caused huge shock not only to the citizens in our country, but those all around the world. 304 passengers were determined dead or lost among 476 people on board, as the ferry sank in the middle of the sea near Jindo. Even though four years has past since then, a lot of questions are left unresolved. (Click HERE to read more about the timeline of the Sewol Ferry). Facing the fourth year after this tragedy, a movie called The Day, The Sea was released on the 12th of April.


Focusing on the initial cause

The poster for the fim The Day, The Sea with the line "The unforgettable day, the sea that knows eveything."
(Photo courtesy of Naver Movie)

The movie The Day, The Sea is a political and societal documentary film that focuses on the accident of the Sewol Ferry. While the media exclusively focused on the reason the maritime police could not rescue the passengers on board, the director of this movie, Kim Ji-young, focused on what caused this ferry to sink. Journalist Kim Uh-jun also participated in this process, along with 17,000 citizens who wished to give better a foundation to the research of this film. After three and a half years, this movie debuted, making a breakthrough of 270,000 viewers within a week, despite the sparse theaters showing the film.

This movie is divided into six chapters showing the process of the director and the journalist’s research. Through various reenactments in addition to 2D and 3D animation, the director scientifically and objectively approached the matter. Testimonies from the survivors and crew as well as restored video clips from CCTVs and black boxes were thoroughly examined along with the announcements the government made. The ship sank to the left even though they made a sharp left turn. According to the law of inertia (the force that can be easily experienced when our body is forced to the front when a bus makes a sudden halt), that is not possible unless there was another impact. The results of the Automatic Identification System (AIS), which is an automatic record made by the ship to show its location, had two different versions even though they were both given by the government. Making matters even more complicated, a recording of the crucial 20 minutes during the actual accident was somehow not saved.


The movie had to go thorugh endless rechecking of information.
(Photo courtesy of AtNine Film)

This movie presents a theory based on the data they collected and analyzed. Through endless questioning and research, they come to the most reasonable explanation they can deduce, but at the same time they don't show conviction in their conclusion. The director mentioned in his interview. “This theory was posited because we couldn’t think of a more reasonable cause. If there is any other explanation based on enough evidence, I simply hope that my ideas can be any kind of help to uncover the truth.”

Outside the movie

The process of data evaluation wasn’t the only obstacle the director faced. The protection of their own data also tormented the team. In the midst of the creation of this movie, there was an incident where the CPU of their cine-editor was damaged. “I had a fellow director making a documentary related to the Sewol Ferry who had the same experience as me. He had a CCTV in his room and saw a trespasser in a white mask bend their CPU, reassemble the machine, and walk back out again,” said Kim Ji-yeong in an interview outside. After that, a designated person had to take care of the reference room 24 hours a day for three and a half years. He even had to create a personal vault built into the wall to keep their data safe.

Kim Uh-jun and Kim Ji-young (from left) talking about the movie
(Photo courtesy of V App)

This movie, as the director mentioned, cannot be blindly trusted even though their theory of the tradegy's cause is intensely rooted from facts they collected. However, this movie leaves a big question mark to every single audience member - “why?” Why would there be different records when one day, one ship, sank only once, at a certain time? Now our society is looking at the second Social Disaster Working Party to ascertain the truth, four years after this disaster. Some might say they are still working on this matter. However, we should assiduously and precisely look back at this tragedy. Is the matter settled? Or is this something that has not yet even started?

On Jung-yun   

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