Jokes and concerts are out. So are school field trips and boisterous cheering at baseball games.
As South Korea mourns one of its worst-ever disasters, a ferry sinking on April 16 that likely killed more than 300 people, most of them high school students, anything deemed frivolous or fun is frowned upon, and the backlash for breaking this collective somber mood can be harsh.
A politician has been warned by his party for attending a party where alcohol was served, another was criticized for running in a marathon. A popular singer has been lambasted online for going ahead with a concert as bodies recovered from the sinking mount.
"It’s not the right time to sell joy and laughter," Maxim Korea, a popular lifestyle magazine, said in an online message announcing it would withhold publishing its May issue.
Most of the jocular, wildly popular comedy, reality and talk shows that usually fill the airwaves aren’t even filming, much less appearing on TV, replaced by somber documentaries or near-constant news coverage of the sinking.
Springtime flower festivals have been canceled across the country. The Education Ministry has ordered many schools to cancel field trips until July. Musicians have postponed album releases. Broadcasters have scrapped live K-Pop shows.
Baseball officials have asked professional baseball teams’ cheering squads to refrain from cheering loudly and to keep the usually ubiquitous female cheerleaders from the stands and field.
Movie attendance has plunged, according to the Korea Film Council’s box office count. And radio listeners are noticing markedly different playlists on their favorite channels.
"DJs are playing sad music most of the time," said Hong Yeo-tack, a Seoul taxi driver.
South Korean entertainment company CJ E&M has canceled most of the entertainment shows on four of its cable channels and won’t show any disaster films "out of respect for the ferry tragedy and the period of mourning we’re experiencing as a nation," said international PR manager Joe Yoon.
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