Keeping social distance

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Keeping social distance


The author is the head of the welfare and administration team of the JoongAng Ilbo.

“Straight arm” refers to a movement in weight training keeping the arm extended straight while pulling the equipment. Last year, former U.S. vice president Jo Biden found himself in controversy for inappropriate physical contact with a woman, and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi advised him to “join the straight-arm club.” Political magazine Politico wrote that she meant to say that Biden “should be more aware of others’ personal space.”

“Personal space” is a concept that cultural anthropologist Edward Hall introduced in his book “The Hidden Dimension.” According to Hall, personal space can be divided into four distances according to the relationship. The intimate space of zero to 46 centimeters (1.5 feet) is allowed between family members or couples. A toothpaste brand used the concept in its advertisement campaign, “46 centimeters is the distance that your breath can reach.” Personal space is 46 to 120 centimeters. It is the physical space that you don’t want to be invaded by other people.

Social space is the 120 to 360 centimeters that you keep when you are engaging in social life. You would want to keep this distance with people you meet for business. It is space that you don’t feel uncomfortable with strangers. Seats at coffee shops in hotel lobbies generally are separated by this distance. Public space is more than 360 centimeters — the distance between an audience and a performance stage or speech podium.

As the new coronavirus — officially named Covid-19 by the World Health Organization — is known to spread through close contact in closed indoor space, people are paying more attention to social space. Deputy head of the Korean Center for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC) said in a briefing that a droplet of novel coronavirus can splash about 2 meters (6.6 feet), personal hygiene is very important to minimize the infection and spread of Covid-19. “The most effective way is keeping a social distance,” he said. The Korea Medical Association also proposed that the first week of March should be a week to get used to keeping a social distance.

Keeping the same distance as the table-length at the inter-Korean summit in 2018 — 202 centimeters — will make people feel apart psychologically. Nevertheless, one small thing that individuals can do to fight the deadly virus is to keep social distance.

JoongAng Ilbo, March 2, Page 29
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