They Say We Should Wait

  • onMarch 21, 2018
  • Vol.39 Spring 2018
  • byKim Ki-taek
All of Us Were Sewol

They say we should wait.1 While the 6,835 ton ship capsizes; while the ship sinks with just a part of the bow visible on the surface of the sea; while an announcement just repeats “Wait!” with the captain and the crew slipping out of the ship, they say it’s too dangerous for us to move, so we should stay put and wait. While the National Maritime Police just circle around the sinking ship; while they’re stopping the UDT team and civilian divers who have hurried over to rescue us, the television says they’re hard at work rescuing us, so we should just stay calm and wait. Tired of waiting for a rescue team that doesn’t arrive, the dark sea water rushes in first to block out our cries and screams, and tie up our floundering bodies; no matter how desperately our torn off fingernails and broken fingers try to grasp something, or anything, they say we should not ask questions, but just sit and wait. Though sea water swallows up KakaoTalk; though it swallows “They say we should wait”; though it swallows the very fingers that typed out “They say we should wait,” they still tell us we should wait, not to worry since no deaths can yet be confirmed. Though Mom and Dad wail and stamp their feet repeatedly, and the rescued school’s vice principal hangs himself with heavy hearts all around, they say we should wait, not to be taken in by false rumors, but to stay focused on their announcements. While death swells in the water, and bursts forth tearing up clothes; while faces swell and reduce to a pulp, they say that since the baby faces on student IDs remain intact, just hold those faces tight in grasped hands and wait. They say we should wait in the water of Maenggolsudo2 until the East Sea runs dry and Mt. Baekdu wears away.



1. “They say we should wait. No further announcements after ‘wait.’” At 10:17 am on April 16, 2014, the last KakaoTalk message was delivered from a Danwon High School student from inside the Sewol ferry as it was sinking. This was 50 minutes after the National Maritime Police’s rescue vessel arrived on the scene at 9:30 am. (Yonhap News, April 28, 2014)
2. Translator's Note: A sea channel between Maenggol Island and Geocha Island with one of the most rapid and unpredictable currents in Korea.


Translated by Yang Eun-Mi
Photo ⓒ NOH Suntag, Meaning of missing 7 hours #CEF1054, 2014

Author's Profile

Kim Ki-taek is a poet, translator, and professor. He has published six poetry collections, one essay collection, and numerous children’s books; he has also translated many children’s books, including Hans in Luck. He has won the Kim Su-Young Literary Award, Hyundae Literary Award, Isu Literary Award, and Midang Literary Award. His books Storm in the Needle Hole and Gum have been published in Japan and Mexico, respectively.