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September 17, 2021 Nonfiction

No News

SJ Han

No News photo

On April 18, 1930, BBC radio will announce, “There is no news.”

On April 16, 2014, I will be one of two students visiting a Seoul radio station for High School Career Day, though Media and Broadcasting is only my third-ranked preference. A friendly, fast-speaking man will shake our hands and give us souvenirs and show us around the building. 

Towards the tour’s end, the man will go on-air, to provide a glimpse of morning programming. His fifteen-minute news segment, however, will go on for the next hour. There will be breaking news: A ferry will capsize with 476 people on board, most of whom are high school students on a graduation trip. The man will relay updates on-air, his wits quick and his voice assuring. Eventually, it will be reported that all passengers on the MV Sewol have been rescued, that parents have been notified their children are safe. Though the broadcast is tense, it will end on a bright note. I will enjoy Career Day. I will think my friends are missing out. 

By the time I return home, the initial report will be proven incorrect. 250 teenagers and 56 adults will eventually die at sea. My mother and father will forget to ask about Career Day, and I will forget to mention it. Their faces will get red as they curse the media; they are certain that false assurance is the cruelest possible precursor to losing a child. For months, however, my parents will stay glued to the television. They will hardly miss a minute of the evening news, though it makes them upset; rescue operations will go on months longer, briefly to save lives but mostly to find bodies. I will stay away from the television, because I cannot withstand the distress on the screen and in the living room. Sometimes, my mother will run into my room to hug me and kiss me and run her bony fingers through my hair. Her speechlessness will break my heart. When I lie in bed, I will remind myself that every child must outlive their parents – especially me.

The ferry will be talked about for years. Exasperated, some politicians will say that it’s about time to move on from the damn ferry, maybe because dead kids are bad for elections. We will get mad, then stop talking anyways.

I will survive past high school. I will safely cross an ocean when I become a college student in the United States. I will listen to my parents when they tell me not to stay out past midnight or drink or smoke, or at least I will try. Somehow, I will end up a DJ on college radio. I will play obscure Korean music to my eleven or twelve listeners, two of which are my parents. I will ramble about a guitar riff I like, a folk singer I think is underrated – but not much more. I will do my best to sound like a happy son doing something that makes him happy.

On my show, there is no news, though there is always news somewhere in the world. 

image: Aaron Burch