05/16/2014, 00.00
SOUTH KOREA
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Augustine Nam, a "martyr of the Sewol", chose to save his students instead of running away

by Pietro Kim Jaedok
As way to celebrate Teachers and Students Day, a group of young ship survivors decided to honour Augustine Nam Yoon-chul, paying tribute at his tomb. The teacher died whilst saving the lives of dozens of young people during the terrible tragedy that saw the ferry sink. The government plans to declare him a "Righteous of Korea".

Daejeon (AsiaNews) - In order to celebrate suitably Teachers and Students Day, a group of students at the Danwon Upper High School (in the city of Ansan) gathered in front of the tomb of Augustine Nam Yoon-chul, one of the heroes of the Sewol sea ferry disaster who, instead of seeking safety, chose to remain on the ship to save as many lives as possible

As he carried his act of heroism, the teacher, 35, died in the seeking of the ship. "His life was a great testimony for Christ," said a tearful young man. "He was a true teacher and a true believer: an exceptional Catholic."

Throughout the peninsula, the festivity is a major recurrence. Even in North Korea, students and teachers gather to remember their time together. Young people visit their former mentors pinning a flower to their lapel.

Augustine Nam's mother was the guest of honour yesterday. Students and their families sang "Thank you, teacher," a traditional song dating back to the early 19th century.

"After I met him, my life changed. I was never been good at school, but he helped me and gave me courage and hope for the future," said Han Ji-wong, a former student, as he spoke to Augustine Nam's mother directly.

"When the water reached our waist, he came in and gave me his life jacket. Then we were swept by the sea and I lost sight of him," said another one.

After the moving ceremony, his mother addressed the gathering.

"I have always told my son that he should not only be a teacher for the sake of knowledge, that he should be a true educator who changes the lives of those who come into his classroom. My son died to save his students, but he also changed their lives."

Augustine Nam's friends, whose who studied with him at the same university, decided to build a memorial tower in his honour him.

The mayor of Danwon decided to submit his name to the government to be declared "a righteous of Korea."

In reporting the story, South Korean newspapers noted that Augustine Nam was a Catholic and "a true teacher who chose to save others."

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