The 2014 MV Sewol disaster was one of the most impactful events in contemporary S. Korean history, not only for the hundreds of deaths that resulted from the sinking of the ferry, but also from the reactions towards the political leadership that followed and eventually led to Park Geun-hye’s impeachment. Yi Seung-jun revisits the events during and after the accident.
The film starts in a very revealing and shocking fashion, with recordings of the conversations between the various levels of Korean authority, which highlight their incompetence to grasp the situation, as much as their ridiculous efforts to show-off. Furthermore, SMS, emails, and videos from the students’ mobiles provide a more thorough look at what was going on during the sinking, in a series of chilling sequences. The aftermath, through the testimonies of the parents of the victims, the divers who volunteered to save the passengers and eventually to discover the bodies, intensify this sense, while the tragic story of one of them is another clear indication of how significant the consequences of the tragedy were, to everyone involved, to say the least.
Through the aforementioned, Yi communicates both the incompetence of the authorities, as much as the frustration, despair and the trauma of the Korean people. In the 29 minutes the short lasts, he has managed to present the situation and what followed in the clearest fashion, while the great editing of the different footage, and the ominous, but also beaitiful visual presentation of the sea heighten the overall sense even more.
“In the Absence” is a very impactful documentary that sheds much light to a series of events that shocked a whole nation, and a great introduction to anyone who wants to know about the Sewol tragedy.