A Jungian Encounters Disaster

I had not much interest in the world and my surroundings. I rarely watch the news on TV so my only source was through the news I hear on the radio while commuting to work. When the Sewol Ferry disaster occurred, I became aware of the seriousness and urgency of the situation only after the network of contacts by the Korean NeuroPsychiatric Association’s Public Relations and Planning Committee was activated.

While preparing and reviewing the announcements and press releases by the Association, I was requested to arrange what the Association needs to do to deal with the tragedy. I prepared and circulated a proposal titled “Proposal of a Disaster Mental Health Committee” after urgently gathering information and researching the mental health system in developed countries in response to disasters. After consultation with experienced doctors and meetings within the Association, the Disaster Mental Health Committee was established as a committee under the Korean Mental Health Foundation.

Immediately, specialists were gathered and through round-the-clock meetings in the online environment, an enormous amount of planning and work was processed. Working as a team, the Committee members all encouraged and supported each other and were inspired by each others’ dedication and passion. I put behind my days as a doctor of a small psychiatric clinic and dived into the midst of a boiling furnace.

I had the chance to visit the group memorial altar when I was acting as an operation committee member for Ansan Disaster Mental Support Center. It was a beautiful spring day when I visited the memorial altar and I was at a point where I was exhausted from the stress and work. The fine weather intensified my sorrow but the innocent young faces on the altar helped me to regain my strength and sense of calling.

Afterwards, I published the post-disaster intervention training material, prepared the parliamentary investigation material, participated in the case study in foreign countries, and made the Disaster Mental Health Committee’s homepage. I participated in all these activities with a pure sense of volunteering and a sense of duty as a psychiatrist.

I have lived a life where I sought my personal mental health and sound mentality. I did not think my study in analytical psychology would provide assistance in times of such a communal crisis. However, the fundamental concept of Carl Gustav Jung inspired me to contribute to both the society and mental health of individuals. Jung empathized that one must thoroughly be oneself and this is not separation nor isolation from society but participation as a member of a society with a sound personality. 

  • This essay was extracted from replies to questions asked by Pr. Kenji Kitanishi at the 14th Symposium of the East Asian Academy of Cultural Psychiatry held at Kyushu University, Fukuoka, Japan.
  • 이 글은 한국융연구원이 발행하는 ‘길’지 2014년 가을호에 투고되었습니다.

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