Tag Archives: China

The Panic is Real

Ceiling Monster

It’s been going on for weeks now, but the sudden upsurge of coronavirus cases which began from that church in Daegu has resulted in what I could only describe as a proper widespread panic.

First off, next to my office, they’ve expanded the customer service department and people have been answering phones non-stop… changing schedules, updating customers, etc. It’s become a bit of an irritant, as my quiet office is suddenly abuzz with telephone rings, chatter, and people milling about back and forth.

Everyone in the office is advised to wear a mask. The department head instructed me directly to wear one. I often get away with skirting the rules, but with this one, it’s getting more noticed than usual. Aside from the mask, I just learned that we’re supposed to get our temperatures checked when we enter the building in the morning and for some peculiar reason, go to the tenth floor to have it recorded by a clerk there. This one, I’m going to pretend I didn’t hear. It just doesn’t make sense to me. Besides, I should get a pass on this. I’ve been pumping Purell on my desk long before it became fashionable. I’ve also been campaigning against using those disgusting fingerprint scanners we have in the office.

My building has been sprayed several times for viruses. Even last night, the elevator smelled of disinfectant. I’m assuming this added zeal is also because they found cases of coronavirus in the neighborhood I work in. Because of those cases as well, there are not too many people walking around outside, a very touristy neighborhood which would normally be busy with Chinese tourists and food vendors. It’s actually quite eerie.

People have been buying canned goods, instant noodles, and bottled water, thinking that they might be forced to stay indoors for an indefinite period in the future. Masks, while generally available, can be sold out in some stores or available at an inflated price. And speaking of masks, most people outside are wearing them. My train commute is normally packed with commuters, which I imagine is a promising vector for a viral infection. This week, there’s noticeably fewer commuters. I believe this is because many companies have advised their employees to stay at home and telecommute for at least a couple of days.

A company I worked for had its headquarters shut down a couple of days for disinfection. This is because a neighboring building had an employee who was diagnosed with the virus. Many buildings are connected by underground tunnels lined with shops and restaurants and perhaps even a pathway towards a nearby subway station. This makes an infection in one building a cause for concern for the whole neighborhood since many company employees use those tunnels not only to travel between buildings but also to eat lunch.

Classes have been delayed for a week. My Korean class next month is delayed and could potentially be canceled depending on how many people sign up. Attendance to after-school programs have been down since many parents would prefer their children stay at home. I haven’t seen Chinese students in the institute I attend. In fact, I think the attendance of adult students has been down as well.

No one is going to movie theaters or amusement parks. This must be a huge boon for Netflix which was just introduced to the country last November. And speaking of business, the virus is hurting many big Korean companies especially ones relying on their ties to China, be it import and export or tourism. I just hope that this would be the final lesson for these companies to diversify already and not be too dependent on the Chinese. They should’ve learned this lesson many years ago after the THAAD fiasco. These big businesses will survive however. I’m more concerned about small businesses that are currently suffering because of people choosing not to go out for fear of catching the virus. The lady I used to buy sushi rolls from on the subway station hasn’t been there for days. I hope she’s okay.

It has affected me financially as well. Usually, I’m involved in many side projects starting in January. It’s almost March and many of them have either been canceled or delayed ultimately due to the coronavirus panic. People don’t want to be near other people if they can avoid it.

Some churches have canceled in-person services. Instead, people are asked to view services streamed online, an odd mixture of religion and technology.

The government has instructed weekly protests in the city centers to be halted momentarily. Last weekend however, far rights groups still staged a protest near my workplace in defiance of the government order. They believe the government is using fear of the virus to quell political dissent. The protesters are mostly senior citizens manipulated by charismatic leaders pandering to them. You’ll often see them on weekends waving the Korean, American, and Israeli flag demanding that the Korean president be impeached for whatever reason.

Some Koreans are complaining that the government should have temporarily banned all Chinese nationals from entering the country, not just ones from Wuhan. I’m willing to bet however that these same people will be the first ones to complain about Koreans being detained overseas or prevented from going to their country of destination. Right now, a group of Korean travelers are being prevented from entering Israel. It’s caused a minor stir in the country.

Not many people are traveling overseas. I know people who are getting married this summer and they haven’t been really that thrilled talking about honeymoon plans. The price for tickets to China however has risen due to Chinese nationals wanting to go home and many destinations to China being unavailable due to travel advisory. I’m not too keen on traveling either. I wasn’t too keen on traveling to Japan earlier, but now even less, especially after seeing how Japan is currently bungling their handling of the virus. I imagine this is going to be a disaster for the upcoming Tokyo Olympics which they’ve been hyping for so long now. Personally, I think this is a good thing. I believe the Japanese government is not being truthful regarding the current danger left by the Fukushima disaster. They’re going to use the Olympics to whitewash their failed effort to properly contain the radioactive contamination. I also believe that the Japanese government is using the Olympics to bolster their right wing nationalist agenda.

As I mentioned in a previous entry, I’m not really too concerned about catching the virus. I believe it is still very much hype at the moment despite all of the events I described. Still, I don’t want to be the one who catches it and spreads it to everyone I know. Imagine the constant nagging I would hear from people if I do catch it. I don’t think it would be good for my resume either. I just want all of this to be over soon. This virus is not good for business.

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Achoo!

Tongue

Before the long Chinese New Year weekend, I asked a coworker if he was going somewhere. He said he had plans to visit Japan. He just hoped that he won’t be encountering too many Chinese tourists because of the coronavirus which is all over the news at the moment. I shrug and nod at the thought.

After living in Korea for so many years, I could differentiate Chinese, Koreans, and Japanese by the way they look, dress, and behave, especially as tourists. Listening to that comment, it’s a bit odd to hear such casual xenophobia from coworkers, when from a western point of view, he might as well be Chinese himself. Right now, I’m seeing Chinese Canadians are reporting being stigmatized due to fear of being infected by the virus. The same goes in other parts of the world. News about French newspapers being particularly insensitive towards their Chinese populace has been going viral, no pun intended. Asians aren’t usually very loud when they suffer racism. In fact, many racist Asian tropes have been so normalized due to people suffering in silence that it takes a fair amount of time to convince them that such tropes are racist.

In any case, I think situations like these are just catalysts for internal racist attitudes to be openly vented. I was inclined to believe that racism against Chinese people overseas due to the virus was just media hype, but then again, I’ve seen people in Korea actually fearing the Chinese. Chinese students and instructors who visited China during the break are asked not to attend school for at least two weeks. Places where Chinese tourists usually crowd in the city look quite empty. I haven’t really seen this strong a reaction in people and in the media since the avian flu hit the country, not with SARS or MERS. And even with the avian flu, the only time it affected me was not being able to visit the aviary in the zoo.

Anyway, I’m not really too concerned about it at the moment. I still believe that the rate of infection and casualty is still pretty low compared to other diseases that were previously hyped up. Though the youngest casualty is 36 years young, the majority of the casualties are over 60 years old. Videos of tents and Chinese medical professionals yelling instructions in Chinese might sound scary, but I don’t think it’s too much to get into a panic over. Tents with sick people, hazmat suits, loud foreign language… these are all intimidating at a very basic level. Then you add in some communism and a distrust of the Chinese government and you have a potent mixture of irrational fear that allows you to be dumb, or at its worst, be unkind to your neighbors.

Gotta keep calm.

Just stay healthy, eat right, wash your damned hands, and be nice to Asians.

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About Innocently Prodding Someone’s Bum

Saint

When it comes to childhood or child-rearing, some things just don’t translate to North America or just 2017 in general. I remember when I first came to South Korea, I was teaching English to young children. Some of the boys would play around shoving their fingers into each other’s bottoms, occasionally including mine. It was playful and not sexual at all, but in order to avoid any confusion, I discouraged it in class. I have my suspicion that it probably originated in some sort of sexual submission/domination dynamics, but I really don’t think the kids were thinking of that. It was horseplay. It was horseplay that was odd, and is probably less common now than it was even ten years ago.

The thing is this isn’t really a Korean thing, shoving things up bottoms as a form of horseplay. It is an Asian thing as far as I can tell. If I grew up in Japan, I probably would’ve had to deal with kancho. In Taiwan or China, I would probably deal with it under a different name. I remember having to deal with it as a young child. It wasn’t amusing back then. If anything, I always thought it was a throwback to when kids and people in general truly didn’t know any better. I didn’t put much malice in it. I just thought that the other person better wash their hands afterwards.

But it really doesn’t translate to North American countries. Not in Canada. Not at all. Kim’s Convenience tried to explain it to mixed results, and as much as I understand the practice and don’t want to be the straight person in the skit, it really does seem like a throwback. Even when the Korean character equated the practice to a wedgie, it didn’t really help the situation. When was the last time you got a wedgie? Even I am too old to experience the hilarity of giving and/or receiving wedgies when I was young. It was outdated back then, and it would be seen as cruel now. In fact, the only person who was interested in shoving things up my bum as a prank was my father, who I imagine used to play around with his peers that way when he was a child back in the 60s. Different environment, uncomfortable to put up with now, but I move on. It’s the same way I saw my young Korean students when they were keen on putting fingers up bums… different environment. I don’t want to be ethnocentric and tell them that it’s wrong or put malice into it; I just discouraged it like every other horseplay.

But in the same spirit of ethnocentrism, in Canada, we don’t shove fingers up children’s bottoms as a form of horseplay. It’s not that there’s malice in it, but it’s best to avoid doing it to prevent confusion. It’s not really wise trying to shoehorn questionable horseplay or pranks from other countries into North America when it could be interpreted differently, especially in this day and age. If an immigrant parent or grandparent does that to a child, and by some miracle, the child is okay with it, the neighbors, friends, or other relatives might not be. It’s best to avoid that confusion. There other aspects to one’s culture that are much better to pass on to the next generation, things that won’t get one suspected or arrested for abuse.

 

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On Child-like Leaders

Goat 2

The thing with North Korea’s Kim Jung Un’s unpredictability is that he’s been given, GIVEN, the job of running the country as his first job. Not only was he just some rich kid living in Switzerland given the job of running a throwback country, but as the role of supreme dictator, he’s under the constant threat of usurpation from his handlers, his people, and even his family. He constantly needs to flex his muscles (figuratively, of course) and threaten his neighbors as well as his inner circle, lest he becomes another Muamar Gaddafi. This explains the occasional super villainesque murders of his associates and family members. It also explains the rather extreme reactions to slights against the regime.

There’s been a political rift lately between South Korea and China, with South Korea building a missile defense system (THAAD) against North Korea which is equipped with radar technology capable of penetrating deep into Chinese territory. South Korea defends the missile system as a defense against the North. I imagine in normal circumstances this would’ve been fine with China, since they appear to be losing their patience with North Korea. They recently cut off coal exports from North Korea because of their recent missile tests. But the South Korean government is partnered with the United States, and there is deep distrust between the two rivaling military powers. Also, the South Korean government seems oddly determined to install the missile defense system despite its unpopularity among the locals. After all, the North doesn’t need missiles to attack the South. Traditional artillery fire could reach Seoul just fine (But whether it could take the South is another matter). I suspect the installation of the missile system is either the US military slyly using South Korea to contain China, or perhaps some people are getting enriched with military contracts and the sale Lockheed Martin’s systems. In any case, without the North Korean threat, the whole missile defense system argument would be moot, and China wouldn’t be imposing travel bans to South Korea and threatening a ban on South Korean products.

So yes, because Kim Jung Un is an unpredictable player, it leads people and government outside of North Korea to act out in ways which ultimately hurt them. South Korea and China doesn’t need to be feuding at the moment. They are important partners in various industries. Korea doesn’t need to a build ridiculous missile system when North Korea would be committing economic suicide should they ever decide to full-on attack one of its neighbors. But Kim Jung Un’s child-like capriciousness gives people the excuse to do so.

Kim Jung Un was snatched up from his comfortable life in Switzerland to fill his father’s shoes. I doubt if he ever dreamed of living the rest of his life dressing up and pretending to be his grandfather. He had a carefree life, but now he’s living under a lethal microscope with powers that could affect millions of people in his country and beyond. What does he know about governing? Governments need leaders who have experience in leading and are actually interested in the role.

That brings to mind: I wonder how Donald Trump spent his weekend.

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Subway Hero

Fake_Antigue

Saw this over the weekend. Someone was peddling “antiques.” Now I know that many of these “antiques” are made in China, are probably not even a year old, and are probably being sold more than ten times the price they were bought, but who would buy these things? It’s neither antique nor porn. Where exactly does a person put these?

I don’t mind fake “antiques” btw. I would buy them and have them in my house as long as they’re being sold at a reasonable price. Don’t tell me something is from the Ming Dynasty and that I’m getting a deal at $500. Just tell me it’s from a distributor in China and I’ll gladly buy it for $50.

Being in Asia, the anachronism of the bronze figures kinda reminded me of plastic figures like the one below. Again, as a practical matter, where does one display such things?

anime_figure_butt

I try not to stare at disabled people, I really do. I’m sure that many of us have that compulsion to stare at disabled people not because they are oddities, but to make sure that they are okay, just in case they need our help. We’d swoop right in to save the day like Supermen. We don’t stare directly, but we steal glances through peripheral vision, much like men would steal glances at exposed cleavage. The staring (or monitoring) is not in itself malicious. It comes from a good place. It’s empathy. We are concerned about our fellow human beings. It’s not something we do to the “normals” but hey, they’re disabled!

But all too often it truly is just arrogance. Of course they’re okay. They don’t need your help. They were fine many years before they encountered you.

I had a moment like this in the subway over the weekend. There was a blind man in the car. At first, I thought he was a beggar, but then I realized he was just like everyone, a passenger. He was standing right by the subway car door, waiting for his stop. I was trying to have a conversation with the person I was with but I can’t help but steal glances at the blind passenger. Maybe he’ll need help.

Then he fishes out a smartphone from his pocket. I thought it was odd because I assumed he would require something more tactile, but then he placed the phone close to his ear as he typed. Lesson learned: the blind can use smartphones. Butt out of their lives.
As if to make the point clearer, as he steps out of the subway car (bumping to one or two passengers), I noticed that he has a dragon tattoo on his right arm. He’s not so helpless as to not appreciate body art. He clearly doesn’t need my help. He’s doing fine without me.

A person who did need my help was a girl on her phone outside the station who didn’t realize her skirt was caught on her purse and was unwittingly giving everyone a view of her underwear. Who knows how long she’s been walking around without anyone telling her. She was embarrassed, but was glad someone alerted her to it.

It’s not the blind who needed help from me that day. It’s one of the normals.

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