Sung Jae-gi, the head of a men’s human rights advocacy group in Seoul, South Korea is apparently dead after an attempt to raise money gone wrong.
Sung went missing after jumping (or possibly falling) from the Mapo Bridge into the Han River. According to other members of his group, the jump was a stunt designed to encourage people to donate 100 million won to his group (about $10,000 American Dollars).
His wife reportedly knew of the plan in advance, as did a Seoul news reporter who filmed the incident.
That is a summary of the facts that are on hand right now. You can read the news account here.
While all the facts of this story are yet to be gathered, and may well be buried after the standard treatment from the mainstream media, this solemn moment does provoke some thoughts in me that I am not going to wait to share.
First, Sung’s death, while tragic, is not out of the ordinary save for the circumstances of how it happened. This is the corner men are in because our voices are deemed savagely “privileged”. Our voices are laughed at and derided and ignored until it gives us the likes of Thomas James Ball; until it gives us Earl Silverman.
Though it appears from all aspects of this story that Sung Jae-gi did not intend to take his life, it is clear that he must have known there was a risk. He was willing to take that risk for the cause in which he believed.
It may count for little. They have dragged the river for three days, failing to find his remains. The society in which he lived will similarly turn up empty nets in its pursuit of understanding why he died. That is the tragedy that we bleed for every day here. It is the social sickness we try to correct; to give meaning to the likes of Ball, Silverman and Sung.
Sadly, we also find that we struggle within ourselves. In that is our shame.
An official of Sung’s group who was present at the incident, Han Seung-oh, disgraced his fellows and the cause for which Sung gave his life by apologizing after it happened.
“We are very sorry for causing such a fuss,” said Han, “but his jump was not a suicide but a stunt to draw public attention.”
I read that and my heart sank. How sad that Sung spent his final moments in the company of such a coward.
Do I think that his idea to jump from that bridge was advisable? No. Is it something that I would recommend to any MHRA in order to draw attention to the cause or raise money? Again, no, I would not. Never put your life at risk. I think too many men have already risked, and too many have lost to expend even one more life on any of this.
But the only apology due anyone in this godforsaken mess is Sung Jae-gi, the man driven to desperate means to call attention to problems in a society so depraved and ignorant that they will not know of or care about what he died for.
He deserves an apology from our society. And he deserves an apology from Han Seung-oh, who could have, and should have, seized that moment to demand that his culture to look directly and fearlessly into why his friend lost his life. Instead he failed him, and everything he stood for.
Sung Jae-gi took a risk, perhaps an excessive one, for what he believed. But at least he was willing to risk. It is a heartbreaking loss, made meaningless by those around him who crumbled like paper tigers when it counted. This is not a movement with a border, though. We won’t even be dissuaded by the imaginary barrier of language. We can stand up where others let him down.
And we will.
I am not a praying man, but if I was I would surely hit my knees and plead with God that Sung’s wife, who knew of his plans, does a better job in honoring what he believed in. Just as we will honor him in the days ahead.
Tip of the hat to Diana Davison for assistance with this story.