No overreaction, pleaseOverreaction to the deadly Ebola virus that has killed nearly 900 people in West African countries and led to warnings across the world has resulted in insensible and panicked actions that could taint Koreans’ image and the country’s reputation. The World Congress Global Partnership for Young Women 2014 sponsored by Duksung Women’s University was held this week in Seoul as scheduled, despite last-minute talks about cancelling it. The conference was scheduled to include 28 university students from nine African countries including Kenya, Ethiopia and Cameroon. But the invitations to three students from Nigeria, where deaths from Ebola virus have been reported, were cancelled at the last minute.
The three students protested the entry ban saying it was excessive. They said that the Nigerian doctor had died after being infected by someone who contracted the disease in Liberia and that their country is still safe. They threatened to file suit against the Korean sponsor of the conference and authorities with the UN Human Rights Council.
Africa is 300 times bigger than Korea and 1.1 billion people live in its 54 countries. The African guests to the Korean conference - from Kenya, Ethiopia and Cameroon - come from areas far away from Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia, where the current outbreak is happening. All of the guests were required to have medical checkups before they left their countries. They also went through quarantine screening upon arrival. Still, some Koreans demanded that the event be called off and protested letting the African students enter the country.
President Barack Obama earlier this week hosted an unprecedented summit with African nations, inviting leaders from 50 countries to Washington, which included 35 presidents, three vice presidents, nine deputy prime ministers, two foreign ministers and one king. The leaders of the countries affected by the Ebola outbreak cancelled their trips. However, Obama and the other summit leaders have stressed that there is no risk to Washington or the United States from those arriving from Africa this week. Talks on a wide range of issues, including humanitarian aid and trade will proceed unaffected.
The Korean government must come up with scientific and reasonable quarantine guidelines as well as provide accurate information about diseases so that we do not offend African guests to our country with our behavior.
JoongAng Ilbo, Aug. 6, Page 30