Wednesday, April 23, 2014

The eeriness of the Sewol ferry's name (세월)

The ferry that recently sunk in Korea was named Sewol, or 세월 in Korean. I had not thought much about this until a Korean friend pointed out how creepy a name it is, given the circumstances.

Ferry Sewol 1

세월 literally means "time" but with a connotation of its movement; i.e. the passing of time. I've tried to come up with a good translation. Let's look at some examples from Naver and Google:

From Naver:

세월 (歲月)- Time
  • 세월이 가는지 오는지도 모르다 (무사태평하다) be unaware of the passing of time
  • 세월 참 빠르다 Time flies
  • 세월 가는 줄 모르고 바쁘게 살았다 I've been so busy I didn't even notice the years go by. 
  • 그녀의 병이 회복되는 데 오랜 세월이 걸렸다 It took her ages to get over her illness
  • 세월이 약이다 Time heals all wounds / Time will take care of this.

Google translates 세월 as Years, Time, The Years, Ages

My friend and I decided that one of the best ways to translate the sentiment of nostalgia or reflective longing of 세월 would be something like "As time goes by".

You can see why this would be a suitable name for a slow-paced, relaxing, easy, reflective, sentimental journey to Jeju. I imagine the old people, celebrating their 60th birthdays, sitting on the deck at sunrise and sunset, reflecting on their long, happy lives.

It also becomes a horribly apt and disgusting name, when you consider the children trapped, floating in their cabins, awaiting rescue as the crucial moments of the "golden hour" slip by.

Author's commentary:

I'm sorry to write something so morbid about this. During this discussion of 세월, I realized the depth of my own uneasy feelings about this event. Perhaps that is why something so trivial as the name of the boat, and its tenuous connection to the event, blew up in my mind. It seems a horrible microcosm of what happened. I don't like to add much opinion to this blog, but all those kids, scared, not knowing what to do, looking to the adults for help. It's too much. I apologize for any discomfort this post causes. 

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