Numerous Angry Letters from Foreigners Pour In
A growing number of foreigners in South Korea are protesting against
the sudden death of 14-year-old American boy who was found on May
10, 2008 dead at a public bathhouse in Gyeongsan City, North
Gyeongsan Province, South Korea.
They are complaining about the poor emergency care of South Korea's
911 service and about the lack of quick response of the bathhouse'
A number of angry letters flooded in The Seoul Times newsroom after
the incident. The South Korean police started an investigation about
the mystery death of the young American boy.
Here are some the letters from the foreigners living in South Korea.
Bright and Loving Kid Found Dead at a Public Bath
Just over a week ago, a very bright and loving kid was found dead at
a public bath. Mike White was a friend of mine and he will be
missed. His loss is very personal and made even more difficult to
bear by the fact that so little is known about the circumstances of
However, as personal as this loss is, it does bring up a whole host
of issues that we should all be interested in. For one, why is it so
difficult for a grieving mother to get information about the
circumstances of his death?
For another, were there other people in the baths with him? If so,
why didn't they help him and why aren't they coming forward with
more information? Were they afraid to help? Does Korea lack Good
According to what little information has been disseminated, the
ambulance took over 45 minutes to get to the scene. When it finally
did arrive, it was poorly equipped to deal with the situation. Was
this just a fluke, or should some light be shined on the state of
Korea's s emergency services?
There is a sense that, rather than struggle with all of the
difficult issues this story brings up, those involved (the sauna,
the police, the press) seem to be trying to ignore the issue in the
hopes that it will go away.
I sincerely hope that is not the case. For those that knew Mike,
this matter is far too important to just be forgotten and it should
be of interest to anyone (Korean and foreigner) living in Korea.
I Was Shocked by Mike's Death
Bathhouses of the Royal Hawaii JimJil Bang in Gyeongsan City
I saw the news about Michael White and was shocked. He was only 14
years old but was a very big boy and may have been seen by the staff
at the bathhouse as an older teen. I feel so sad for his mother and
hope the press can take a balanced look at this story and find some
Especially I wonder if their were an witnesses, since bath houses
are separated and Mike must have been there by himself. I met him
through my work with KOTESOL and his mother. He got dragged along to
planning meeting and was a real active guy. He helped me out by
taking care of my two children and acting as an older brother to
them at a few
I can't stress enough that this issue should not be looked as an
American vs Korean but as an issue of getting to the bottom of
From what I heard of the medical report he
had trauma to the throat and I wonder if there could have be a fight
or some kind of incident that is being covered up.
Please do what you can and try to keep any national sentiment out of
this and look at it as a local boy let down by our community. Korean
and expat inclusive.
Untimely Death of Young American Man
Stephanie White, Mike's mother, showing the album of his son
Photo Courtesy of Chosun Ilbo
It is with much sadness and concern that I am communicating to you
about the untimely death of a young American man, Michael Stephen
On the evening of May 10th, 2008 at the Royal Hawaii JimJil Bang in
Gyeongsan City, Michael experienced bodily trauma from which he did
This death was that of a healthy 14-year-old. I had personally known
him for more then two years.
He was an active, bright boy who loved life and will be deeply
missed by all those who knew him.
The staff and administration at Royal Hawaii must be held
accountable for lack of action on the night of his death.
Why was Michael's mother notified about his dire circumstances anly
after he was already brought to the ambulance in the parking lot of
Michael's mother was in the womens' section of the same facility at
the same time.
Why was the ambulance transport service brought for Michael who was
already reported dead?
Who reported him dead?
Did not the ambulance service staff need verification of facts
before sending only a transport vehicle?
Michael was unconscious in the ambulance, not deceased. If a
properly equipped ambulance was provided, Michael had had a good
chance of being saved.
The Gyeongsan City Police Department must be held accountable for
releasing a proper and full report to Michael's mother, Stephannie
Witnesses who were in the mens' section of the Royal Hawaii need to
come forward to explain exactly what happened. Michael's death is a
A full investigation is paramount.
Michael will be forever be fondly remembered by those who knew and
Richard James Slezak, B.A., B.S.W.
Department of Educational Development
Volunteer Warden for Daejeon City
Canadian Embassy in Seoul
Vigil for 14 year old American Boy in Gyeongsan
You are invited to attend a Vigil being held for Stephen Michael
White, a 14 year old American boy who drowned at a sauna last
Saturday night in South Korea.
Michael's life was taken from him at too early an age and under
suspicious conditions. Please join us for prayers in respect of
Micahel and his mother, Stephannie. The Vigil will be held across
the street from the Royal Hawaii Sauna in Gyeongsan, Gyeongsanbukdo
on Sunday, May 18th from 12:30 - 2:00 p.m.
Stephen Michael White Fund
Eunhasoo Ville Apt 201
Please include this version of my letter in memory of Mike White,
(rather than my first version), as I was quite in shock and
apologize for any misunderstanding of my first letter.
For Editorial in Memory of Stephen Michael White ("Mike")
I first met Mike (age 14) about three years ago. He was volunteering
with the group of student volunteers I was working with at the
annual Kotesol conference.
Even though he was so young, he was also very savvy and, best of
all, brought a spark of relaxation and fun to our frenzied group.
I've met him several times since then and he was always very kind
and gracious beyond his years.
I feel so shocked and saddened by Mike's untimely passing. My deep
condolences to Mike's family and friends.
Testimonial to Michael White
I met Michael in the winter of 2007 when he and his mother drove
down to Pusan to deliver the special gift of a rescued puppy to me.
I could instantly see instantly the optimism, love and light that
radiated from Michael.
Though I only met him for a brief time I could feel that he was
truly a special young man. He shared a special bond with his mother
that was instantly evident. They were more than just son and mother,
they were best of friends which even to a stranger was apparent.
That he was taken from us too soon is tragic but it is important to
celebrate the life that he led and to remember the person he was and
the spirit and light that radiated from him.
Cheryl Binstock (Busan)
Mike Stood Out among Many Volunteers
I have been in Korea for five years, and have been involved with the
international conference of KOTESOL for four years. I was the Venue
Signs Manager when I met Mike. For two years in a row he volunteered
the night before the conference to help put up signs.
I was responsible for many volunteers, but Mike stood out among
He was kind, attentive, helpful, and most of all he was respectful.
I noticed what a great worker he was, and that impressed me. At some
points, I could actually leave him in charge of other volunteers,
and I had every confidence that the job would get done. He was a
leader, and while I only know him for a brief time, he will be
remembered as being likeable, congenial, responsible, dependable,
Anyone would be better for having known Mike White.
Jennifer Brown (Canadian)
English Teacher - Myongji Elementary School (2006-present)
(Venue Signs Manager - KOTESOL International Conference - 2005-2007)
--- In expatskorea@ yahoogroups. com, "Corina"
> Hello everyone,
> I am writing to let you know about a silent compassion vigil being
> held at the American Embassy in Seoul on Friday, May 16th, 2008
> 8:30 am onward. The vigil is being held in the memory of Stephen
> Michael White. There will also be another silent vigil at the
> Gyeongsan Royal Hawaii Sauna on Sunday, May 18th. (Gyeongsan is a
> minute train ride from DongDageu Station).
> Michael was a 14 year old member of our expats community. Some of
> you may know him, or his mother, Stephannie White, from KOTESOL,
> Hoseo University, KonKuk University, Yeungnam University or from
> expat events. On Saturday evening, May 10th, we went to the Royal
> Hawaii Sauna to relax after a long day and the unthinkable
> While Michael was in the men's side of the spa, he was drowned in
> shallow cold pool.
> Michael was nearly 6 ft tall and a strong swimmer. He was versed
> how to be safe with regards to paying attention to his heart and
> breathing in sauna/hot tubs. He was in excellent health and had no
> preconsisting conditions, or conditions discovered in the autopsy
> that would have caused him to drown on his own.
> His mother and I were not notified that there was an emergency
> Michael until sometime after an ambulance had arrived. Later in
> week we were informed that the ambulance was apparently called at
> 11:02 pm, but we were not notified until 11:45 pm. Both of us have
> first responder training and might have been able to save his
> Everything surrounding Michael's death was a horrible chain of
> people's unwillingness to act promptly and properly. The poor
> response was from every level of response Michael received from
> patrons at the spa with him, to the staff, to the paramedics who
> arrived without oxygen, equipment to monitor vital signs or
> to restart the heart, to the emergency room staff and finally the
> police who didn't bother to close the spa and hold everyone inside
> for questioning.
> The autopsy showed he suffered damage to his throat, lungs & back
> his mouth from extreme coughing & retching. Even if no one was in
> the room the sounds should have been echoing to alert
> that someone was in distress. The doctor who did the autopsy said
> there was a strong time frame when Mike could have been revived if
> folks had 1) responded to his distress 2) the staff didnt presume
> know Mike's medical condidion without training 3) the ambulance
> come earlier 4) THE STAFF HAD THOUGHT TO NOTIFY MIKE'S MOTHER!!!!
> Please don't let this tragedy go unnoticed. There are so many
> questions that his mother and those of us who loved him want
> answered. It is likely that we will never know everything exactly,
> but we need to push the powers that be to at least try to find
> Justice for Michael.
> Please join in one of the silent vigils if you are able. Please
> forward this e-mail to others in the expats community who may not
> on this site. Please forward this e-mail to other expat sites that
> you know of. Please forward this e-mail to any members of the
> American military bases who might also be interested in not
> Mike be forgotten.
> There is a facebook group started in Michael's memory. The group
> called: A Mother is looking for answers about her son.
> There are many questions she wants answered, but some of the
> questions she wants fellow expats to ask with her are as follows:
> 1. Are there government regulations about safety procedures both
> for customers and staff in public baths? If yes, does Royal Hawaii
> follow those regulations?
> 2. Were resuscitation measures done before the paramedics arrived?
> 3. Why didn't the staff try to find Mother immediately?
> 4. How come nobody tried to help Michael when he was coughing &
> 5. Why didn't anyone come forward with a statement to the police
> about what happened to Michael?
> 6. What gives the Sauna the right/medical authority to call in a
> false DOA?
> Again, please give your time and support.
> In Memory of Michael,
> Corina Fransen