Korea is struggling to extricate itself from deep sorrow following the deadly conclusion of what started out as a carefree field trip for Danwon High School juniors last week.
More than 300 students of the school were involved in the sinking of the Sewol ferry, and the deaths reported so far are taking a toll on the nation.
Psychological experts believe the grief will not be easy to shake, and that the pain of the memory will have a lasting impact on society.
"Such tragic accidents tend to have long-lasting and agonizing psychological impacts on the lives of the survivors, their families, friends, acquaintances, and also the public," said Kim Byung-su, a psychologist at Asan Medical Center.
The impact was already felt when the high school vice principal committed suicide due allegedly to remorse after he had been rescued, followed by another suicide attempt by one of the rescued crew members.
Experts said those close in age to the student victims may also suffer from emotional distress as teenagers are usually more sensitive about their surroundings than adults and thus could be more deeply affected.
Other serious problems such as depression and a suicide wave ― called the Werther effect ― could spread across the nation.
"Once things clear up and people get back to their lives, the pain of the incident could truly start to set in and become increasingly unbearable," the psychologist said.