COVID-19 chaos spreading in S. Korea

Feb 26, 2020, 09:07 am

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President Moon Jae-in visits the Daegu Medical Center on Feb. 26, 2020./ Source: Yonhap News

By AsiaToday reporters Lim Yoo-jin & Lee Jang-won

South Korea is falling into a black hole of the novel coronavirus. The country’s legislative and judiciary branches have been temporarily shut down as an unprecedented move to ward off the spread of the virus. Companies and factories are cutting back their operations. Kindergartens as well as elementary, middle and high schools have closed, disrupting every area of people’s lives. Sporting events and cultural performances scheduled at home and abroad have been either postponed or canceled. The number of infections in the country is nearing 1,000. There is a growing concern that the entire Korean society is being sucked into great confusion and depression due to the worsening situation.

The government and the ruling Democratic Party (DP), which face criticism for slow response to the outbreak of the virus, have been embroiled in another political controversy on Tuesday. They are now under fire over creating social confusion. The government, the ruliung party and the presidential office announced Tuesday to thoroughly implement stepped-up “containment” measures in Daegu and North Gyeongsang Province, the hardest hit regions by the coronavirus outbreak. The main opposition United Future Party (UFP) blasted the announcement as the world “containment” sparked speculation that the government may consider a lockdown in Daegu. 

The DP and even President Moon Jae-in immediately stressed that the maximum containment measures mean beefing up quarantine efforts, not isolation. “The containment does not mean an imposition of regional blockade,” said the president, who visited the city of Daegu. “I must say, it is to prevent the spread of the virus. I’m explaining again because I think there was a misunderstanding,” Moon said. The statement received internal criticism. “Please stop using inconsiderate words that lead to misunderstanding. It’s very sad why such words continue to come out,” said DP lawmaker Kim Boo-kyun, co-chairman of Election Committee in the Gaegu-North Gyeongsang region (collectively referred to as the TK region).

However, the UFP, which has a strong support base in the TK region, threw harsh criticism. “I wonder if the government’s Daegu containment meant it would lock down the Daegu city like the Wuhan lockdown. The government’s ‘Daegu Corona’ expression humiliated Daegu residents, and now it’s hurting even deeper with Daegu containment,” said UFP floor leader Shim Jae-chul in a statement. On February 22, the government apologized for calling the virus “Daegu Corona 19” in an official report. 

“They are saying as if Daegu and North Gyeongsang residents spread the Wuhan Corona, sparking hatred towards the TK region,” said UFP Floor Spokesperson Lee Man-hee. “The Moon Jae-in administration has remained silent when we suggested banning entry of Chinese nationals. But they are insulting the residents by treating TK region as if it is the epicenter of the virus.” UFP lawmakers in the city of Daegu issued a statement and said, “While the government claims it should share China’s suffering and help the epicenter of the virus, it is trying to lock down Daegu-North Gyeongsang region. What kind of government is this?”

Residents in Daegu and North Gyeongsang also reacted violently. “We are refraining ourselves from going outside nearly a week. Everyday seems unreal to us. Politicians should not denounce us,” said a Daegu resident. 

The business community is also greatly hit by the virus. Hyundai Motor has halted its assembly lines responsible for rolling out Porter pickup trucks at Ulsan No. 4 plant on Tuesday. Renault Samsung has canceled its launching event for the new XM3 scheduled for March. LG Group has allowed its pregnant employees to work at home until further notice. SK Group has advised their employees to work from home for the next few weeks. Samsung Group has also ordered its pregnant employees to work from home at least until Sunday. 

#COVID-19 #South Korea 
Copyright by Asiatoday