Live From Seongnam, South Korea, It’s Saturday Night

 

Hello America, from the land of novelty socks, and XXX-sized surplus “A Prairie Home Companion” t-shirts. I’m Andrew, long-time listener, first-time caller. I finally decided to join Ricochet today, partly because I wanted to clear up some things I am hearing in the US media, even on Ricochet.

I have been living in Seongnam, South Korea, on and off for the last six years, give or take. It’s a “satellite city” south of Seoul, part of the metro, but still with a million people living close together. It’s always hopping, there’s rarely a seat on the subway, and jostling is the national pastime.

In Oklahoma, I was a classical music public radio announcer, but in Korea, I am an English teacher in corporate offices and private institutes. In Korea, I suppose teaching English may be the last refuge of a scoundrel, but there’s not much use for me here in radio, as my Korean skills are semi-pro. A woman led me here, so for now, let’s place the blame squarely on her shoulders.

Having seen the beginning of this Wuhan Virus™️ in Korea, I want to tell you what it looked like here. First of all, the perception that Korea was ever “shut down” is wrong. The third-largest city, Daegu, was the site of an outbreak inadvertently spread by Shincheonji cult members. Even during that time, lines for protective masks stretched around the block, and life, to some extent, went on. Here in Seongnam, Seoul, Busan, and Incheon, public school and university starting dates were delayed, but other institutes and businesses opened or closed as they saw fit. In my six-day work week, I lost two days in January and four days in February. Two of those lost days were due to a client canceling. Four were because of an institute closing.

My friend, a female boss of an electronics company with over 100 employees in two cities has not closed for one day during this outbreak. Other associates who work for SK Telecom, Samsung and LG all telecommuted at times, but otherwise went to work on schedule.

In this country of 51 million people, there has been no mass curfew, release of prisoners, overrun hospitals, or mandated self-quarantine. The stores have remained open, there have been no empty shelves, no panic buying, and no people pummeling each other over peanut butter. Plenty of toilet paper available too!

So, it makes me wonder what’s going on in the Home of the Brave™️. Just wondering.

Sorry for the long post. Nice to meet y’all.

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  1. EODmom Coolidge
    EODmom
    @EODmom

    Thank you! Can we please broadcast this information throughout the Land? This sounds like real life to me. 

    • #1
  2. JoelB Member
    JoelB
    @JoelB

    Welcome, and thanks for the perspective.

    • #2
  3. She Reagan
    She
    @She

    Welcome to Ricochet!  Looking forward to more posts from you.  We keep hearing that S. Korea was able to “flatten the curve” because testing was so widespread.  Did you see any of that, or did testing feature prominently in your experiences?

    • #3
  4. The Reticulator Member
    The Reticulator
    @TheReticulator

     Thx for the report.  Our xenophobic media cover nothing but Trump. There is no world outside that. So we don’t hear these things. 

    • #4
  5. Steven Seward Member
    Steven Seward
    @StevenSeward

    What a great resource you are!  Welcome to Ricochet.  You are a breath of fresh air among all the dooms-day prophets over here.  This adds a huge perspective on what is going on.  Please keep us updated on how things are winding down.

    • #5
  6. Stad Coolidge
    Stad
    @Stad

    Thanks for the info, and welcome!

    Yes, I fear we have over-reacted, but I also have faith when this blows over, we will bounce back quickly because that’s what we do.  Hopefully, our experts at the CDC will study the success stories and failures worldwide, and incorporate what worked into our system.  Otherwise, we’re setting ourselves up for shutting down the country every time a bug gets a name . . .

    • #6
  7. Steven Seward Member
    Steven Seward
    @StevenSeward

    Stad (View Comment):

    Otherwise, we’re setting ourselves up for shutting down the country every time a bug gets a name . . .

    I keep wondering if we’re going to go through this insanity in the cold season  every year from now on?!  Maybe only if Trump is still in office (but not because of Trump, of course).

     

    • #7
  8. Front Seat Cat Member
    Front Seat Cat
    @FrontSeatCat

    It can’t just be good luck. Was it due to testing? How many deaths and sick? It isn’t looking good here because it isn’t.

    • #8
  9. Western Chauvinist Member
    Western Chauvinist
    @WesternChauvinist

    Welcome to Ricochet and thanks for the post. We always welcome new perspectives. You should know there are still brave people here, but maybe not as many as we thought.

    My niece works as a surgical ICU nurse at the Cleveland Clinic, 50 feet down the hallway from where they’re treating COVID patients. Her assistant nurse manager was just sent home with a low grade fever. Right now she’s working four 12-hour shifts a week, but she expects that to change — increase. Dramatically. She’s scared, but going to work anyway. That’s the definition of “brave” in my book.

    The rest of us? We’re living in the home of the “abundantly cautious.”

    • #9
  10. Mendel Inactive
    Mendel
    @Mendel

    Welcome! It’s always great to have new members here!

    Dotorimuk: The third largest city, Daegu, was the site of an outbreak inadvertently spread by Shincheonji cult members. Even during that time, lines for protective masks stretched around the block, and life, to some extent, went on. Here in Seongnam, Seoul, Busan and Incheon, public school and university starting dates were delayed, but other institutes and businesses opened or closed as they saw fit.

    This is fascinating. I had read in a medical journal (can’t remember which one) that schools and universities had been closed. Was that just perhaps in Daegu? Or just completely inaccurate reporting? Either way, very good to know.

    In that vein, another question for someone actually on the ground: is the app that lets you track infected people for real? There have been quite a few stories about it but it’s hard to wrap my brain around the notion that the government would give everybody an app that let them track their neighbors.

    • #10
  11. Doug Watt Moderator
    Doug Watt
    @DougWatt

    Welcome to Ricochet.

    The aggressive testing for Corona Virus by South Korea is something the US should consider for future virus outbreaks. South Koreans learned some hard lessons in the MMERS outbreak in the past, and to their credit made plans to be more proactive. 

    There are some important logistical differences between South Korea and the United States. The land mass area of South Korea is about 38,502 square miles. The land mass area of the US is about 3,794,100 square miles. South Korea is slightly smaller than Virginia, and slightly larger than Indiana. The population of South Korea is about 52 million. The population of the US is about 331 million. 

    • #11
  12. Dotorimuk Coolidge
    Dotorimuk
    @Dotorimuk

    Mendel (View Comment):

    Welcome! It’s always great to have new members here!

    Dotorimuk: The third largest city, Daegu, was the site of an outbreak inadvertently spread by Shincheonji cult members. Even during that time, lines for protective masks stretched around the block, and life, to some extent, went on. Here in Seongnam, Seoul, Busan and Incheon, public school and university starting dates were delayed, but other institutes and businesses opened or closed as they saw fit.

    This is fascinating. I had read in a medical journal (can’t remember which one) that schools and universities had been closed. Was that just perhaps in Daegu? Or just completely inaccurate reporting? Either way, very good to know.

    In that vein, another question for someone actually on the ground: is the app that lets you track infected people for real? There have been quite a few stories about it but it’s hard to wrap my brain around the notion that the government would give everybody an app that let them track their neighbors.

     

    • #12
  13. Songwriter Inactive
    Songwriter
    @user_19450

    Welcome to Ricochet, and thx for the report. Look forward to hearing more from you.

    • #13
  14. Dotorimuk Coolidge
    Dotorimuk
    @Dotorimuk

    Mendel (View Comment):

    Welcome! It’s always great to have new members here!

    Dotorimuk: The third largest city, Daegu, was the site of an outbreak inadvertently spread by Shincheonji cult members. Even during that time, lines for protective masks stretched around the block, and life, to some extent, went on. Here in Seongnam, Seoul, Busan and Incheon, public school and university starting dates were delayed, but other institutes and businesses opened or closed as they saw fit.

    This is fascinating. I had read in a medical journal (can’t remember which one) that schools and universities had been closed. Was that just perhaps in Daegu? Or just completely inaccurate reporting? Either way, very good to know.

    In that vein, another question for someone actually on the ground: is the app that lets you track infected people for real? There have been quite a few stories about it but it’s hard to wrap my brain around the notion that the government would give everybody an app that let them track their neighbors.

    Hi @Mendel! There IS an app like that, although my Korean is too poor to make good use of it. I DO automatically get cell phone alerts about when I can get masks and the age and gender (only two genders here) of the newly infected.

    • #14
  15. Dotorimuk Coolidge
    Dotorimuk
    @Dotorimuk

    She (View Comment):

    Welcome to Ricochet! Looking forward to more posts from you. We keep hearing that S. Korea was able to “flatten the curve” because testing was so widespread. Did you see any of that, or did testing feature prominently in your experiences?

    Hello @she. Yes, testing is everywhere, including drive-through. I never felt a need to avail myself of it, because it would mean being around a bunch of potentially ill people.

    • #15
  16. Dotorimuk Coolidge
    Dotorimuk
    @Dotorimuk

    Sorry, I didn’t answer thoroughly. The public and colleges have put off their starting date until early next month. It’s been changed a lot lately, particularly due to a lot of foreign students returning here for college.

    However, a HUGE part of education here are the private after school “hagwons” for elementary-high schoolers. These institutes have, for the most part remained open here in Seongnam and Seoul, although some parents have been keeping their kids home from time to time.

    • #16
  17. Dotorimuk Coolidge
    Dotorimuk
    @Dotorimuk

    Doug Watt (View Comment):

    Welcome to Ricochet.

    The aggressive testing for Corona Virus by South Korea is something the US should consider for future virus outbreaks. South Koreans learned some hard lessons in the MMERS outbreak in the past, and to their credit made plans to be more proactive.

    There are some important logistical differences between South Korea and the United States. The land mass area of South Korea is about 38,502 square miles. The land mass area of the US is about 3,794,100 square miles. South Korea is slightly smaller than Virginia, and slightly larger than Indiana. The population of South Korea is about 52 million. The population of the US is about 331 million.

    Yes, @Doug Watt – apples and oranges. Agreed.

    • #17
  18. Dotorimuk Coolidge
    Dotorimuk
    @Dotorimuk

    Front Seat Cat (View Comment):

    It can’t just be good luck. Was it due to testing? How many deaths and sick? It isn’t looking good here because it isn’t.

    Hello @Front Seat Cat. I’m not smart enough to know, but I’m smart enough to guess wildly…. I think the widespread testing DID get people into quarantine/treatment faster, and the overall quality of care here is first class. (The overall health/longevity of the Korean people is also quite high.) Looking at wuhanvirus.kr, I can see the death rate here thusfar is 1.2%. (104 people)

    I hope no one thinks I am taking it lightly though. I am only writing to tell my experience, and that of my Korean friends and colleagues.

    • #18
  19. rgbact Inactive
    rgbact
    @romanblichar

    Dotorimuk (View Comment):

    rgbact (View Comment):

    I don’t know how SK has supposedly tested the “right amount”. Is there mandatory testing?

    No mandatory testing here. I also am not sure what constitutes the “right amount.”

    More data in about how SK is testing. Fascinating chart from a Belgian economist that compares the demographics of testing in Italy vs Korea. Korea tests huge numbers of 20 year olds and they appear to test 70+ ages at close to their % of population. Italy otoh tests very few people under 40.  My rough estimate is that Italy would get a 5 times greater mortality rate than actual, just simply using their testing methods instead of Korea’s(assuming near zero mortality under 50).

    https://www.newshub.co.nz/home/world/2020/03/coronavirus-new-graph-shows-people-in-their-20s-are-more-asymptomatic-and-not-being-tested-for-covid-19.html

    • #19
  20. Steven Seward Member
    Steven Seward
    @StevenSeward

    rgbact (View Comment):

    Dotorimuk (View Comment):

    Hello @she. Yes, testing is everywhere, including drive-through. I never felt a need to avail myself of it, because it would mean being around a bunch of potentially ill people

    I don’t know how you can realistically test enough people to uncover all the asymptomatic carriers. My understanding is 90%+ of people tested are negative. So, people with a fever get tested and don’t have it….while people that aren’t sick and have it don’t get tested. I don’t know how SK has supposedly tested the “right amount”. Is there mandatory testing?

    For a comparison, here in Ohio about 4% – 5% of people who are tested are coming up positive with the virus.  Keep in mind that the only people being tested are the ones who think they have it due to having symptoms of the disease.  You must get a referral from a doctor in order to be tested.  They are not just letting anyone show up for testing otherwise there would be a million people in line in no time.

    • #20
  21. Joe Boyle Member
    Joe Boyle
    @JoeBoyle

    Seems to me, as much testing as possible and isolation of the infected would be more effective than shutting down entire states.  Seems to me government aid legislation is always to little, to late and misdirected. Seems to me when auto manufactures shut down, unemployment applications will reach biblical numbers. Seems to me small businesses won’t come back, they will be gone. Seems to me small business employees will be drawing unemployment and watching Netflix. Seems to me Dr Fauci is an arrogant little guy with little tolerance for opposing ideas. Seems to me Dr Fauci believes all the hard thinking has been done and the last word hasn’t been said until he says it. But what do I know? I have a single digit IQ and didn’t go to Harvard. When it ends with a train wreck, we will see Larry Kudlow on FNC  say “Well who could have see that coming?”

    • #21
  22. ShaunaHunt Coolidge
    ShaunaHunt
    @ShaunaHunt

    Welcome to Ricochet!

    • #22
  23. RushBabe49 Thatcher
    RushBabe49
    @RushBabe49

    As everyone else has already said, welcome to Ricochet!  We appreciate the news from abroad, and we hope you will continue checking in and letting us know what is happening in Asia.  We do have members all over the world, so we probably have a lot of great information all in one place.

    And if you are looking for humor, you will find that here, too.  Even in the midst of an epidemic, Ricochet members maintain their vast sense of humor.  Cheers!

    P.S. I am 70 years old, still working full-time, and already getting antsy since our factory sent us home early Friday morning when two employees were found to have slightly-elevated temperatures on screening at the door.  We are expected to go to work on Monday.

    • #23
  24. ShellGamer Member
    ShellGamer
    @ShellGamer

    Welcome aboard.  Heck with the virus,  what classical music do people listen in Oklahoma?

    • #24
  25. Unsk Member
    Unsk
    @Unsk

    Dotorimuk, Welcome to Ricochet!

    Great Post! I think you have given us   some great perspective  and some great lessens about how to deal with this Covid-19 Crisis:

    A. Test thoroughly . Thanks to our great public servants at the CDC and FDA  that did not happen. I was just talking to some here in LA who thinks they still are not testing all that are suspected of having the disease.  Gulp!

    B. South Korea absolutely did not shut down everything like our great Governor is doing here is California, and just think you guys in South Korea appeared to have turned the corner on this thing!  But here we will never let an excuse for imposing near  total control over the population go to waste. Our masters of course know what’s best for us. 

    • #25
  26. The Reticulator Member
    The Reticulator
    @TheReticulator

    Stad (View Comment):
    we will bounce back quickly because that’s what we do.

    OK, now I am going to panic for real.  

    • #26
  27. TBA Coolidge
    TBA
    @RobtGilsdorf

    Classical music, eh? I think we have Groups for people like you. 

    You are most welcome, and your foreign correspondent cred is truly established. 

    • #27
  28. Steven Seward Member
    Steven Seward
    @StevenSeward

    @dotorimuk, I have an important question.  Was there any overblown media hype with wild dooms-day scenarios  in South Korea about the Corona virus when it infected your country?

    The reason I ask is because here in the U.S. there was just an explosion of media hysteria over the virus, like I’ve never seen before, combined with a convenient condemnation of President Trump,  just as soon as the virus was detected in America.  As I see it, the media successfully drove the American populace into a mass-hysteria panic over the disease (aimed at Trump), which in turn infected our leaders, which then led to the vast shutdowns of our society.  I am wondering if our own media hysteria in turn ignited further panic in the rest of the World, since the World tends to follow U.S. news so disproportionately.

    I don’t think the U.S. media went crazy while the virus was raging through China and South Korea.  I could be wrong about that because I consciously avoid listening to mainstream news.

    I am wondering if there was a  lack of a South Korean media blitz, was that why you didn’t shut down the country the way that succeeding country’s did?  I can understand China’s shutdown.  They are a totalitarian Communist country where these are normal tactics and are not even close to the worst things that can be imposed on the citizenry.

    Would love to hear your take on this.

    • #28
  29. Dotorimuk Coolidge
    Dotorimuk
    @Dotorimuk

    rgbact (View Comment):

    Dotorimuk (View Comment):

    Hello @she. Yes, testing is everywhere, including drive-through. I never felt a need to avail myself of it, because it would mean being around a bunch of potentially ill people

    I don’t know how you can realistically test enough people to uncover all the asymptomatic carriers. My understanding is 90%+ of people tested are negative. So, people with a fever get tested and don’t have it….while people that aren’t sick and have it don’t get tested. I don’t know how SK has supposedly tested the “right amount”. Is there mandatory testing?

    No mandatory testing here. I also am not sure what constitutes the “right amount.”

    • #29
  30. Dotorimuk Coolidge
    Dotorimuk
    @Dotorimuk

    ShellGamer (View Comment):

    Welcome aboard. Heck with the virus, what classical music do people listen in Oklahoma?

    I worked at KCSC-FM for 25 years. One of the few 24 hour non-commercial classical stations in the US….now it’s KUCO-FM.

    For me, I’d “flatten the curve”  and play ragtime. But truth be told, I’m more of a Dylan fan.

    • #30