So we won’t forget what we promised not to forget: The movie "When We Bloom Again"

Kendall Rice

English Writer

I have a yellow umbrella that I don’t use often. Written on it are the words “I will not forget.” The umbrella was made in memory of the victims of the Sewol ferry. All over the country, people with these umbrellas gathered to show they won’t forget—that they will act. But when it was actually raining, I would use a different umbrella. I worried the yellow one would make me stand out, maybe even get into an argument with someone. And I was ashamed to declare, with my umbrella, that I wouldn’t forget when in my daily life I was forgetting.

Ten years ago, on April 16, 2014, the Sewol ferry sank on its way from Jindo to Jeju Island. Its 476 passengers, including 325 high-school students on a suhak yeohaeng, a field trip, went down helplessly with it. That day, I was working in my office, watching the news and making small talk with my co-workers. Did you hear about the ferry bound for Jeju? That it went down, but most of the people on it were rescued? One hell of a suhak yeohaeng! But that wasn’t the whole story—or even the real story. Afterward, devastating news reports flooded in: the students had all died; the system had failed them. But the words I remember most clearly are the ones passed casually across the desk—the words of daily life.

In the 10 years since, some people’s daily lives have disappeared. Some lived with despair, some tried to remember their despair, and some tried to turn it into hope. A few of them made movies. Birthday, starring Seol Kyung-gu and Jeon Doyeon, is the story of a family feeling the absence of a son who died that day. Their son is gone, but his birthday is coming up. When there’s no one to say “Happy birthday” to, what do they do with the birthday wishes they long to give? In another movie, Eyelids, the kids who died before their time are stuck at the portal to the afterlife; the movie offers an elegy that gently sends them off. After several documentaries, this year saw the release of director Moon Jong-taek’s SEWOL: Years in the Wind. It shares the account of “Jiseong’s dad,” who had to write down the stories the world wouldn’t listen to.

A few days ago, I watched the movie When We Bloom Again. A man who lost his daughter Kyungeun loses his memory as well and lingers by the sea that swallowed her. The smiles of parents he’d once shared his feelings with, the helping hands of perfect strangers who were there for him—none of that has any meaning for him now. The people who hugged and fought with each other, cherished and hated each other—they’re gone from his mind. Will Kyungeun’s dad get back those precious memories? Can that promise not to forget become one people aren’t ashamed to have made?

Original Writer: Jardin Kim
Original Content in Korean: