Taxing the unvaccinated
The author is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.
“We must think rationally to survive. We need to save this last few cans of food. I am sorry to say this… But I think it would be best for all of us not to share these canned hams with ailing elders,” a young man suggests in the short story “A Rich Old Man on a Desert Island” in Kim Dong-shik’s collection book “Gray Human.”
In the work of fiction, around 10 are stranded on an uninhabited island after their ferry capsized. The only food they have are canned hams in a duffle bag. The man with the ham reasons, “When injured soldiers are carried to the shelter in a battlefield, those with fatal injuries are not treated as there is no guarantee that they will live after the treatment, whereas there is a greater chance to save many more with the medical supplies.”
A similar theme can be found in “Boule de Suif (Ball of Fat)” by the late 19th-century French writer Guy de Maupassant (1850-1893). During the 1870 Franco-Prussian War, a group of French residents of Rouen under Prussian occupation share a carriage in their flight to Le Havre. Onboard are eleven French, including a prostitute called Baule de Suif, a progressive intellectual, a nun, and bourgeoisie couples. They are confined to an inn by a Prussian officer and not allow to continue with their journey. Upon discovering that the officer was detaining them because the prostitute refused to sleep with him, the party at first is furious with the grotesque demand. But frustrated by the delay, they persuade the prostitute to sleep with the officer to free them. Even the nun reasons that a wrong done with a good will is not a sin.
Crimes had been repeatedly committed for the happiness of the majority. The Nazi segregated and massacred for the cause of establishing a “healthy” social order and promoting the prosperity of the community. Imperial Japan forced individuals deemed at risk of producing “poor-quality descendants” to get sterilization operations under the Eugenic Protection Law of 1948 as Japan struggled to rebuild itself after World War II. People with leprosy, known as the Hansen’s disease, which is not hereditary, were sterilized. Even after Korea was liberated from Japanese colonial rule, Koreans with leprosy could not have children for some time.
Totalitarianism justifies individual sacrifice for the communal good. The doctrine of Fascism formulated by Benito Mussolini argues the state is all-embracing, and outside of it no human or spiritual value can exist, or have any value. “One for the total. Total for one,” is the slogan of North Korea’s Workers’ Party.
The so-called K-quarantine has been designed to sacrifice the self-employed. I’m not saying all self-employed businesses had suffered. Depending on business feature and method, some benefited from universal restrictions and distancing measures. But the toll was heavy on the majority. Hundreds had to shutter their businesses. Among democratic nations, only South Korea had not properly compensated for losses from forced social distancing. The United States, Britain, Germany, Japan and others had sufficiently covered for their damages. President Moon Jae-in should be ashamed to boast how successful the country’s quarantine measures had been.
The South Korean government now threatens unvaccinated people with disadvantages. It insists on “incentives” for the vaccinated, but they translated into “penalties” for those who are not vaccinated. A government official publicly said unvaccinated people won’t be able to use multi-use facilities or participate in events unless they present negative results from a PCR test administered in a state authorized clinic. That means unvaccinated person may have to be tested every time when they use a public facility. After the move drew a strong public protest, the prime minister promised there won’t be any disadvantages. But he did not elaborate.
About 5 million out of those eligible for vaccination have not received their jabs. Some of them have physical problems, like allergies, refuse state-enforced actions out of religious or medical belief, or have extraordinary fear of side effects. The government also contributed to skepticism due to ambiguity over compensation or side effects. Even under the extraordinary pandemic environment, a pressure on the minority for the good of the majority cannot be justified.
Totalitarianism compelled the minority to sacrifice.