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Popular to Contrary Opinion: What’s South Korea like during coronavirus?

It’s not complete chaos over here, and kids are free to be kids

My mom keeps asking me if I feel safe living in South Korea. The  president of the United States doesn’t seem sure if this is a big problem or not. The only thing I’ve really done is blame my recent lack of success on Bumble/Tinder on the coronavirus.

My big bosses pushed school back two weeks, and then another few hours later they pushed it back two more weeks. Now we’re supposed to teach two weeks after the original start date, but we’re going to be teaching online courses. A big portion of our students come from China, but I don’t think many of them will be allowed back into our city or the country of South Korea.

I live in Gangneung, a “small city” of “only” 250,000 people or so. Even though it’s much smaller than Seoul and doesn’t have near the numbers or percentage of coronavirus cases, I’ve seen obvious changes in the lifestyles here.

You must wear a face mask just to walk into some pharmacies, grocery stores and public transit. People even drive in their own cars while wearing those stupid masks. My Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and weightlifting gyms are both closed until further notice. All types of schools are closed for now. University students aren’t allowed to move into the dorms until who knows when. Rumors abound of temperatures being taken at certain subways or movie theaters, but my city doesn’t have a subway and only has one movie theater.

Personally, I don’t see this as the end-of-the-world plague some people think it is. I need to buy toilet paper and groceries, but I don’t hoard anything. Most Koreans wear masks now, but usually during cold and flu season they wear masks anyway, so that’s not a change.

There’s not a man dressed in rags ringing a bell and screaming, “Bring out your dead!” like in “Monty Python and the Holy Grail.”

My city is emptier than usual, but that’s because:

1. I’ve got nothing to do, hanging out during the day and seeing the city during the day.

2. Most of our population isn’t here because the students can’t move back yet.

Some good things I’ve seen arise, and hopefully will stay this way:

Most restaurants and cafes brightly offer hand sanitizer. Before Coronavirus, you kind of hoped the bathrooms stocked soap or you simply brought your own soap, hand sanitizer or baby wipes.

Personal hygiene, such as coughing or sneezing into your sleeve, washing hands and sterilizing stuff has improved. I enjoy going to the saunas in Korea, but that can be absolutely disgusting when you walk around barefoot on a tile floor and an old man hocks a loogie in your pathway. I haven’t been to a sauna since coronavirus started, but hopefully all that will go away.

My favorite is that instead of struggling with schoolwork all day, I see Korean children doing something none of them get to do enough: play. Usually, there’d be homework, studying and all that stuff, but now that schools are held up indefinitely, kids can be kids.

When will all this be fixed and everything back to normal? I have no idea, but this is your friend from the other side of the globe reporting in that it’s not complete chaos over here.

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