Jun Cha Woong was a student known for dedication to his studies, but last week became known as a hero after the 17-year-old gave up his life vest aboard a sinking South Korean ferry and then jumped into the icy water to help others.
Woong, a student at Danwon High School, was among the first official victims of the Sewol ferry sinking, which is believed to have killed as many as 270 people.
Investigators believe the South Korean ferry tilted so quickly that many aboard were unable to reach lifeboats to escape. The situation left many of the passengers trapped inside as the boat sank into the water.
“Please notify the coast guard. Our ship is in danger. The ship is rolling right now,” a crew member on the ship told authorities as the ferry began to sink.
With the vessel going down quickly, many passengers who were able to leave their rooms and reach the deck were in desperate need of help. Others were thrown into the turbulent water.
Through this chaos, a picture has emerged of several heroic passengers who sacrificed their own lives to save those around them. One of those heroes was Jun Cha Woong, who reportedly gave up his life jacket to a friend. Woong then jumped into the water in an effort to help other passengers who were struggling, though Jun ultimately sank beneath the waves himself.
While the heroics of Jun Cha Woong may have saved lives, the ship’s captain is being blamed for causing many other deaths with his cowardly behavior. Pictures emerged showing captain Lee Joon-seok boarding a life raft with other crew members as the ship was listing dangerously on its side with hundreds of passengers still trapped inside.
He has now been arrested and charged with five counts of negligence of duty in failing to help passengers.
But the story of Jun Cha Woong has been gaining publicity as well. The teen’s sacrifice has been noted on several blogs, and his picture and a brief description of his life-saving efforts gained thousands of user votes on Reddit.