Just one year ago, the world was very different. Streets were crowded with people and the popular local restaurants in your town always had a line out the door. Now the streets are empty and local businesses are struggling to make ends meet. Since this pandemic started, it was unclear how exactly each country and local city would handle it.
Currently, it seems as though South Korea is the poster child on how the world should control the spread of COVID-19. As someone who studied abroad in South Korea for over one year, I know that part of the reason why South Korea is handling the spread of the coronavirus so well is because Korean society values keeping their community safe collectively. Even with Seoul having a population of almost 10 million people, the spread of the virus is much less than cities in the U.S. with a similar population.
When studying in South Korea, I remember many experiences when I felt and saw with my own two eyes how people respected each other. Sitting on a subway in Seoul is very different from sitting on a subway in New York or San Francisco. The subway is quiet, so quiet that some people are sleeping. Riding the subway in South Korea is almost therapeutic compared to other riding subways in other places. This may sound unrelated to the COVID-19 pandemic, and it might be but this is just one example of the respect people have for each other in South Korea.
In the past couple of weeks, Seoul began to see a surge in cases again and the government decided to put the country in a lockdown level 2.5. The cafes and clubs are closed and people in Korea are encouraged to stay home. Despite the lockdown, many people are still living their normal day to day life and some are even travelling around Korea taking trips to Jeju island and other vacation spots. It seems as though the cases are going down again since the level 2.5 lockdown which is a huge relief for many.
Because of the way South Korea is handling the pandemic, many foreigners have gone to South Korea even if just to live there temporarily as English teachers or do other work. But as a foreigner without a permanent residence the government requires a 2-week quarantine. This is to help mitigate the spread of the virus. The cost of the quarantine in a government facility is pretty steep with the price being over $2,000 USD for some foreigners. Considering that a flight from the states or other countries to South Korea can be over $1,000, the additional cost of quarantine may steer away some, but others are determined to live a normal life amidst this pandemic.
According to the TODAY show, many countries are seeing surges in cases including France and Spain topping nearly 9,000 new cases per day. No matter where you are in the world whether it be South Korea or your small hometown in the states, it is crucial we all follow CDC and WHO guidelines and to stay safe when going outside by wearing a mask and keeping a 6 feet difference between yourself and others.