Time to act responsiblyDeaths related to the new coronavirus and infections have spiraled across the country. Those under watch for possible infection hover over 11,000. We must unite to fight this together.
Experts recommend three precautions — build self-protection against the virus, keep distance from the infected and avoid crowds. It is best to avoid assemblies both indoors and outdoors. The Jogye Order, the largest Buddhist sect in Korea, announced suspension of service at its temples for a month. The Catholic Church also stopped masses in four dioceses. Big protestant churches in Seoul, Busan and Incheon went online for Sunday services. Instead of the choir, a solo act is preferred to sing the hymn. The national volleyball and professional basketball leagues have decided to hold matches in empty arenas.
Yet an ultra-right antigovernment group went on with its weekend rally in downtown Seoul with over 8,000 people, ignoring the Seoul city government’s banning the event. The group led by Rev. Jun Kwang-hoon, chief of the Christian Council of Korea, plans to continue with the weekend rallies. The mass congregation raises a bigger concern because those who attend are mostly seniors.
Law grants people the right to assemble through rallies and assemblies. But it is common sense to refrain from mass rallies at a time when the entire country is swept up in panic over the epidemic. Jun promotes the rally, claiming a virus cannot be spread outdoors. But that’s an irrational claim as the disease has already caused mass infections and often does not show any symptoms.
The Shincheonji church also should not claim that it is a “victim” since its congregation in Daegu has caused massive infections. The churchgoers must cooperate with quarantine authorities to the fullest. It must act responsibly to meet its scale of 250,000 followers across the nation. It must encourage hundreds of followers, who have yet to be traced, to voluntarily report to police.
Clubs in southern Seoul and western Seoul’s Hongdae neighborhood are filled with young people sweating until dawn in close quarters. The young people must also contain their youthful passion during the sensitive time. Although the virus is highly contagious, the fatality rate is fortunately quite low. If one keeps to basic hygiene practices, the worst can be avoided. Everyone in the community should keep away from large, boisterous events and follow the self-quarantine guidelines. To keep from getting wet on a rainy day, it is best to stay at home.
JoongAng Ilbo, Feb. 25, Page 30