okay if you don’t already know. there’s something called MERS (Middle East Respiratory Syndrome) which is a Corona Virus (same family with the normal flu and SARS) that’s driving the country crazy.

well not literally.

but quite.


what’s the big fuss? well, in a weird way, this virus has been in many parts of Asia but is only spreading like wildfire in Korea and its 38% fatality rate is scaring the crap out of everyone. they released statements saying that it’s not as infectious as SARS and that healthy adults wouldn’t get it. which seems quite legit since we have a better immune system. until a 17 year old boy contracted it. and they say that only people with a underlying disease died so far. I found that to be difficult to believe. since it’s a good 38% fatality rate. I don’t know if they’re saying that just because they want to save their economy and pretend it’s fine. but.. well.. 80-90% of the population is walking around without a mask on.

okay lets jump to some scandalous part. so apparently a part time professor in SKKU was in contact with a MERS patient and was ordered to self quarantine until his results comes out. but he obnoxiously went back to teaching (Korea’s very anal about attendance. even if you are suspected to have MERS huh.) after self-quarantining himself for 4 days. the virus is said to show symptoms on the… 6th day-12th day? so he wouldn’t know if he had it. AND HE WENT TO SCHOOL. when I read that my heart skipped a beat because I was in school at that time he was there and.. well I was wearing a mask but not all the time. but later results came out and he’s tested negative so phew.

apparently the government is tightening the law by tracking self quarantine patients on their phone. but heck, they can just leave their phone at home and go to work/buy stuff at the convenience store because they feel very healthy.

okay, the thing is that.. it’s not THAT viral. since people sitting near to the first MERS patient on the plane didn’t contract it. but they said it’s due to good air ventilation. most MERS patients contracted it from hospitals which means.. the hospitals need better air ventilation. I actually do not see the point of putting on masks as I believed that as long as I am in a place with good air ventilation and I don’t go near strangers I’m fine but… for a peace of mind, I’ll go through the trouble to wear the very-so-stuffy mask. what if my university have bad air ventilation right? a classroom is enclosed! who knows? and because my family urged me to wear a mask. every. single. day.

the NEXT scandal is a good one.

so there are exchange students from HK in my uni who were of course, traumatized by SARS, wearing masks in class. I think that must be some presentation class or something. but they were sitting behind and the professor FORCED them to take their masks off because it was deemed as being rude. and that he thinks that everyone is clean in the classroom and hated how the HK kids were being “sensitive”. well.. that all seems NOT AS BAD UNTIL…… he told them to get out of the class and gave crappy reasons in a very… RACIST way. his English wasn’t quite… mmm… and I couldn’t understand the whole thing even after I watched it twice. it went something like this…

“one more thing, please get up, masks. get up, ….??? we are purely to share (whattt???) don’t worry about the MERS. …..? as a very young and healthy and beautiful and handsome guy …..?? …..? hong kong? I want you to sit back. if you are very sensitive, you have to leave. ….? you have to leave now. ….? still keep the mask on. hey boy! if you keep the mask you have to be out of this class. ok? you just go outside ….? that’s my policy. ok? if you don’t want to do that. you know few years ago many Koreans suffered SARS. that’s YOUR country*pointing at the students with his POINTER finger* is an all same place (??????), don’t show that kind of sensitivity to me. I will talk several times through…?????? go, out, I don’t want you, here.”

this is as much as I can get. by now I probably repeated it like 10 times.

I am not sure if I can share the video since it isn’t owned by me. but.. yeah it was viral amongst students in my uni I think.

I can see where he’s coming from.. because of the foreigner’s fears and over reaction to it is causing the Korean economy to suffer (with thousands and thousands of cancelled trips and sharp decline in many businesses) and he was just unhappy about it but… HE DIDN’T HAVE TO BRING OUT SARS. SARS only infected 4 Koreans and they were all fine. this became such a big issue that it came out on some news site and APPARENTLY the professor apologized to the students and sorted their misunderstanding. misunderstanding? really? anyways, most of the HK students decided to leave Korea this week and I heard they will still pass without taking their finals since they are on exchange. but seriously, this is how you want to represent your country by telling exchange students to LEAVE because they were only paranoid about something? respect their trauma. oh, in the Korean article, they also rephrased what he said in a not so offensive way. I showed the video to a few friends and they ALL FOUND IT VERY OFFENSIVE. Korean or not. but definitely not from HK.

(don’t even get me started on Korea’s Racism problems. there’s just too much even my Korean friends admit it themselves. there are a lot of people here who think that foreigners are here to grab a piece of their economy pie and they are taking their young boys and girls away by interracial relationships. they are also afraid Korea will be like America, a place with a lot of foreigners and losing their own culture. well.. true in a way but… it’s still very racist. pfft. everyone have a choice.)

nevertheless, I still love Korea very much and I am really saddened by this tragedy. so many families are hurt by it. mothers in fear that their vulnerable kids will catch MERS, 2000+ schools still closed down, kids missing out on curriculum, UNIVERSITY KIDS forced to go to school because it’s the finals period, fear of it disturbing students from concentrating on their studies… and the list goes on. but like I said, I personally think that it isn’t widely spread in the public but only in hospitals and of course.. places with bad air ventilation. be careful but I think there is no need to be all paranoid about it.

PS: this is quite unrelated but.. today this happened.

(a conversation between me and my lovely grandmother)

grandma: didn’t you say that Korea is very safe (except from NK) and that Kimchi even prevented the Koreans from getting SARS when most of Asia were affected by it? (also, relating to the professor’s comments on HOW IT MADE MANY KOREAN PEOPLE SUFFER, it made him sound very very ignorant)
me: well yes but…
grandma: and why is this ONLY spreading in Korea out of all Asian countries? isn’t Kimchi helping?
me: well it seems that this virus is aiming at Kimchi eaters.

okay this is totally not true. just something I found funny =X. oh it isn’t funny? oh well okay…..

and I still think it’s really weird how it’s spreading so fast here =/.

sorry for the lengthy all-word post. I know some of you hate it but.. I hope you had fun reading =D.

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9 years ago

hi jamie… Sorry but I’m not so updated with the news. So busy with work. But I think I heard about MERS.
But that professor being so angry for such a petty issue is unreasonable. Where do you think Koreans fall in terms of racial discrimination? And what country in their perspective has been overly discriminated?
Just curious about this, this got my attention being an advocate of racial equality. Hehehe
it entails a very open mind when dealing with different races.

9 years ago

I actually enjoy this kind of post more you know tho I did enjoy your other post as well.. But we all knows Korea is not always rainbow and sunshine and to read something about the ugly truth of korea, for me it’s kinda, well..how to put it in a word, interesting maybe? especially from someone that sharing a similar cultural background ,as a Malaysian particularly.Anyway, I’m your Malay reader here ..:) Hopefully, you will write more post like this in a future..because I love to learn from someone else’s experience.

Nabila Armalia
Nabila Armalia
9 years ago

I have been reading news about mers, and so does my mom.. She even asked me whether we should cancel our trip there on Oct. I think it’s kinda too much, since we still have 4 and half months to see the situation. And seeing this post, the situation isn’t that bad, right? Hope u and ur friends are safe and good luck with the test ☺️

Nabila Armalia
Nabila Armalia
9 years ago

I have been reading news about mers after my mom told me about it. She even asked me whether we should cancel our trip there on Oct. I think it’s kinda too much, since we still have 4 and half months to see the situation. And seeing this post, the situation isn’t that bad, right? Hope u and ur friends are safe and good luck with the test ☺️

8 years ago

Hi Nabila,
I live in Seoul and can confirm that the situation is absolutely normal, no worries about MERS.
just you can see some people putting masks , which usual here in korea.

8 years ago

Visiting Seoul this weekend. Guess it’ll be less crowded and more masks around!

8 years ago

Hi Jamie,

I lived in Korea for five years and i love the country so much as it has taught me a lot of things!plus, it was where i spent most of my young adult years, but all i can say about racism there, it is real. And the thing you said in one of your blog post about if “you’re American, you’re awesome” is sooo true. I’ve experienced it sooo many times that I lost count already. Having said that, I believe that there are still many kind souls out there who do not care about where you’re from, how you look, how american your English is, but it’s just hard to find (i’m lucky to have a few!) πŸ™‚

I was there during SARS outbreak, and I remembered most Korean had wore mask all the time, and so was I. With MERS, i heard from my Korean friends that it was not as severe as SARS, which is probably why they did not wear masks on. But then, wearing mask or not wearing mask should be on the person’s own preference and the lecturer definitely shouldn’t reacted like that. Perhaps he was drinking too much before the class? γ…‹γ…‹γ…‹.

In this case, i think that the lecturer is the one who is over reacting. During my university days, my Korean classmates even wore mask when they have cold/ cough. Not a single lecturer point out anything about it. I even think it’s common that Korean wear mask on occasional basis, whether they have cold/cough, or they have just underwent a plastic surgery procedure. So, I do not understand why did the lecturer reacted in such way. But on the other hand, I’m not surprised for his reaction. My friends got chased out from a μˆ˜μ—…(lecture) just because they are foreigners(Malaysian, aka Asian foreigners >.<). But because they have already applied for the class, they had no choice but to attend the class. so they would go to the class as usual, but the lecturer acted like they didn't exist. and yes, complaint were made. But sadly no actions were taken.

Alright, sad story aside, just enjoy your precious time in South Korea. Go everywhere you want to go, and hope you have a good time there.! And thanks for sharing your experience there, makes me reminisce the good old days γ…Žγ…Ž till then~~