Shipwreck Survivors Prevented from Telling Their Story

      April 01, 2010 11:58

      The military has kept preventing the survivors of the sunken Navy corvette Cheonan from communicating with the outside world since the shipwreck Friday. All 52 survivors except for six officers including Captain Choi Won-il are hospitalized in the Armed Forces Capital Hospital in Seongnam, Gyeonggi Province.

      According to a report by the Defense Ministry Monday, 44 are injured, four of them seriously. But the military is keeping even those with light or no injuries at the hospital.

      The hospital strictly limits media access, allowing only visits by family members. "We got an order from the spokesman's office of the ministry to remain tight-lipped," a hospital staffer said. The Navy explained this is a necessary measure for psychological wellbeing of the survivors, but there is speculation that the aim is to prevent information about the shipwreck coming out.

      The military believes piecemeal information delivered by the survivors will not help the government's efforts to get to the bottom of the disaster, but the opposition argues that testimony from the survivors will be helpful in establishing the cause of the sinking and assist rescue efforts.

      Some family members of the survivors are saying that the survivors are not telling them about the moment when the ship started sinking. They say they do not know whether this is because they simply do not remember because of the shock, or whether the military told them to keep mum. The military is also not permitting outside doctors to treat the injured soldiers.

      Prof. Ha Ji-hyun at the Department of Psychiatry at Konkuk University Medical Center, said, "When a person who survived a major catastrophe and sustained serious psychological shock returns home and stays there alone, they may experience guilt and paranoia. The survivors can recover at a much greater speed if they share their experiences and communicate with other survivors."

      Some argue that the survivors will be vulnerable to greater psychological shock if they are exposed to the public before they have come to terms with the shipwreck. But other experts say the isolation could discourage survivors form telling the truth about the shipwreck.

      The Navy has apparently ordered Patrol Boat 501, which rescued 56 survivors soon after the sinking, not to ask any questions to the survivors and isolate them until Navy officers reach the site. Captain Choi delivered the order to the survivors gathered together and he reportedly told them to keep their mouths shut.

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