Better than before?
The author is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.
Flights from the Incheon International Airport are being turned back, while Koreans’ houses are vandalized in China. Koreans are humiliated and shamed around the world because of their nationality. That’s the reality of Korea right now.
It is the result of accepting risks and failing to block Chinese travelers from entering Korea. The Moon Jae-in administration went in the opposite direction. Moon came to power by advocating for safety and the people’s interests. The prevention of a second Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) outbreak was one of the government’s 100 administrative challenges.
Many people think of the Moon administration’s pro-China, anti-American, pro-North Korea, and anti-Japanese tendency. Minimal actions were taken to ensure Chinese President Xi Jinping’s visit to Korea and new inter-Korean events. With the April 15 general elections approaching, there were rumors that inter-Korean relations would resume, with our people’s individual tours to North Korea. I heard that Xi would take a train from Pyongyang to Seoul and Kim Jong-un would accompany him to Panmunjom. About that time, the Chinese ambassador asserted that a travel restriction was unnecessary.
I am not sure how credible these stories are. Individual tourism would not be so appealing. Also, I am not sure about Xi’s visit to Seoul. Instead, I am more curious why the Blue House left the door open when medical experts advised the government to reinforce disinfection. Did they only choose the experts they want to listen to?
On the same day, the Ministry of Unification announced plans for individual tourism and an inter-Korean rail connection. The government kept mum when North Korea compared Moon to a “boiled cow head.” I am curious what the Blue House is thinking.
When Moon attacked the previous Park Geun-hye administration for being the “super-spreader” of MERS in 2015, the number of patients was less than 100. But Moon, as the opposition leader, issued a special statement that the government intensified chaos with late responses and secrecy, and that her leadership did not work while the people themselves fought the MERS outbreak.
At the time, Moon demanded President Park’s apology and pressured the prosecution to launch an investigation of the Blue House. Now, he is patting himself on the back for a “transparent release of all information” about his administration’s battle against the Covid-19 virus, while stressing the failure of the MERS response during the past administration.
At a meeting with ruling and opposition leaders, Moon said, “Banning entries of travelers from China may have worked in the early stages.” He is right. Barring the Chinese people from entering is not needed now. Instead, an exodus of Chinese people in Korea is happening. The government seems to be “flawless,” despite not giving an explanation or an apology for the having worst prevention policies after China.
A merchant who complained about her “crappy business” to Moon was harshly attacked by his avid supporters. A woman in her 50s was arrested for circulating pamphlets attacking the president. It must have been lèse-majesté. North Korea, which made vulgar attacks, and China, which says it is concerned about Korea, are just as insulting. But the government is submissive. The pride of Moon’s supporters and the pride of the majority are separate.
Virus infection is a pathological phenomenon. But the spread of the infection and fear is a human disaster. The government has made the country “Corona Korea” and claims that things are better than before. But people know better.
JoongAng Ilbo, March 6, Page 30