Tag Archives: coronavirus

Pointlessly Healthy

Waiting for my turn

Apparently, according to my annual medical test, including an endoscopy, I’m actually healthier than I look and feel. My cardiovascular age is nine years younger than me, all of my bodily fluids tell nothing but good things, and my hearing and vision are both perfect. As much as I stare at the computer monitor all day at work, I still don’t need glasses. All of this good health news despite not working out at all since they forbade people from going to the gym last February. I have lost a lot of muscle mass and I honestly look worse naked, but I guess I have been eating a lot healthier since the pandemic started. I’ve been going to Subway sandwiches more often (Thanks, Jared! You disgusting sex predator!).

So yeah, I’m healthier for the end of the world. I probably should stop showering with a Life Alert around my neck.

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Where Religion and Covid Meets

Abstinence

Back in 2017, after years of scandals and people protesting everyday in Seoul, Park Gun-Hye, the conservative president of South Korea and daughter of the former dictator Park Chung-Hee was ousted from her position, formally impeached, and sent to prison for corruption. She was sentenced for twenty-four years. The protests, which was key in removing Park, was fueled by the president’s inept response to the Sewol ferry disaster where 304 people, mostly high school students, died. This, plus her government’s push for censorship and the discovery that the daughter of a cult leader was unofficially acting as her right hand man and was privy to state secrets pushed people to the streets. It was a natural groundswell which started from journalism, to the Internet, to mainstream media and some celebrities openly pushing for her ouster, and down to the streets. The impeachment of Park Gun-Hye was even seen as a model for how some countries *cough, United States, cough* should handle massive abuse and corruption by the government.

Conservatives in the country afterwards saw these events and tried to emulate it. They tried to push for the impeachment of the current president on made-up charges. Coddling to North Koreans, being inept, being a criminal, anything. The charges were extremely inept since none of them were based on provable facts, and the current president was enjoying an extremely high approval rating when his opponents started to encourage the rallies. Every weekend, they rallied their supporters, mostly made up of senior citizens, to the same place where the former protests used to take place. The protests became a mixture of confused ideologies, Internet rumors, and religion. People walked around with the Korean flag, the American flag to symbolize freedom from the supposed dictatorship of the current president, and the Israeli flag for whatever reason. In some instances, there were even signs asking Donald Trump to bomb North Korea. So much for being patriotic and Christian.

I work near where these protests occurred. They’re supposed to happen only on weekends, but sometimes I would see them on Thursday and Friday afternoons as well. The place I work at is also close to a park popular among retirees. There, old people would congregate, wander about, and shop for useless wares and snake oil. I notice that the same people that walk around the park, are basically the same type of people going to these protests. Often, the people around the park would be carrying Korean and American flags as well.

See, these protests have become more like a social gathering for people. It’s a thing to do in the afternoon. I passed by these protests a couple of times and many people are just chilling. There are even snack and liquor vendors. The frustration and rage that political and religious leaders are fueling, I believe, tend to be more rooted to longing for a feeling of being in control, longing for a time when they were younger and more relevant to society… which is ironically back when the country was under a dictatorship. And really, there is no concrete reason to any of their demands.

A: Impeach the president.

B: Why?

A: Because he’s corrupt.

B: Really, why?

A: Because, uhm, *Insert this politician under him* was corrupt/caught in a scandal/etc.

B: Okay, but he was let go. That’s not the president.

A: Well, uhm, look at the economy! (and on and on we go.)

The people attending these protests are at best bored. At worst, they are stubborn, brainwashed morons. They are being taken advantage of by political and religious leaders. A few days ago, these protests and the mega church where one of their leaders con his followers became the spark that started another spike in covid-19 cases, much worse than the previous ones we had in the country. The religious leader, Pastor Jun, was diagnosed with covid-19. And even after being diagnosed, he was caught walking around, smiling, and not properly wearing a mask. Asked about the disease, he claimed that it was spread by North Koreans who aimed to sabotage his church and the movement. In Canada, this would be seen as a false claim of terrorism. It is irresponsible and illegal.

Now people who attended the rally as well as the police they clashed with, who had no choice but to be there, are now at risk of having the disease. Thousands of police officers are being tested, but tracing all of the people who attended the rally and members of the church is more challenging. Before all of this, doctors were already on strike, demanding significant change in the country’s medical infrastructure, as well as an increase in pay for working in remote areas. Just yesterday, a member of the church who was diagnosed with covid-19 escaped from his quarantine and was caught in a coffee shop. These people are insane. Things were already bad. Religious nuts, craven politicians, and brainwashed senior citizens just made it worse.

Again, South Korea is on high alert. People in Seoul are advised not to travel outside of the city. Masks are required in most workplaces and allowed to be taken off mostly only on one’s desk. Gatherings after work are discouraged. Gatherings of more than fifty people are discouraged. Church services are canceled, as well as afterschool academies. My Korean class was again canceled yesterday. I’m not sure when classes will resume. Many stores were closed yesterday. Clubs, sports facilities, karaoke bars, and PC rooms are closed. Personally, this virus has already cost me money this year, and Pastor Jun and his followers just cost me even more. The economy was going back up but this recent resurgence has brought the economy back down again.

The first case of covid-19 in the country was brought by missionaries who traveled to Wuhan and kept their actions a secret for days. It has spiked several times in many churches. And now, the latest spike is caused by one of the most politically influential churches in the country. I don’t know what it is they do in these churches that they often become vectors for the disease. I’ve gone to coffee shops, bars, schools, company buildings, and restaurants, and they don’t become vectors for the disease as often as these churches.

The nighttime landscape of Seoul is dotted with so many neon red crosses. Unless the government cracks down on these churches, which are technically businesses, this virus will spike again and again. The wonderful thing about God is that he is omnipresent. People could still talk to him at home.

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Covid-19 isn’t free anymore?

Strawberry

I haven’t been very happy with the actions of some foreigners in Korea. As I wrote a few weeks ago, there’s been several reports of foreigners in beaches not wearing masks even when prompted by the police or given free masks by volunteers. There’s even been some arrests after some rowdiness during the July 4th weekend. It’s also, not uncommon to see foreigners not wearing masks as they wander around Seoul. As a foreigner myself, it makes all of us look selfish. Most people in the country are doing their part to contain the virus, and yet there are people around who walk around not wearing masks because “the country is safe.” It’s safe, thanks to most people wearing masks!

So now I understand why people might be annoyed with foreigners, especially since many of the cases of covid-19 now are getting caught in the airport from people coming in, both from foreigners and from Koreans coming home. But now I see that some people are pushing the government to charge foreign nationals for their covid-19 treatment as some form of punishment? Normally, the treatment is free for everyone, but I think some people believe that foreigners are taking advantage of this situation? I’m really not sure where the logic is here.

As of writing this entry, there’s about 14,000 cases of covid-19 in the country. 700 of those are foreign nationals. A couple of the article I read has stated that the treatment is causing an undue burden to tax payers, which is laughable sine the number of foreigners infected is quite small compared to the total number of cases. How much of a burden would that lighten if those foreigners were forced to pay for their treatment? According to the articles, government officials are saying changes will be targeting those who “intentionally cause a burden to the country’s quarantine and medical system.” The language is quite vague, but it’s notable that a couple of the big outbreaks were caused and hidden by Korean nationals. Also, threatening some sort of punishment to foreigners might discourage more from getting tested or properly treated.

As free as the tests are here, it is not really that simple to get a test. One must exhibit symptoms first for a prolonged period prior to getting tested. I am involved with several sensitive projects in my company, and when I learned that someone tested positive in a building I regularly visit, I tried to get tested afterwards. I got a big fat no. I was told to wait until I exhibited symptoms. Now, if I had covid-19 and was spreading the disease while I was awaiting symptoms, I would’ve been jeopardizing several projects and endangering lives. I was very much encouraged to not worry about it, but if I was indeed ill, does that qualify me as “intentionally causing burden to the medical system?” What if I was a foreign factory laborer who is in a more desperate situation? What if I simply was asymptomatic?

I think this is once again the occasional blaming of foreigners and enacting laws to punish them to ineffectively solve problems. I wrote several times about high profile child abuse cases and the way conservative Korean legislators acted was to force foreign teachers in the country to undergo mandatory AIDS tests, despite those cases not having to do with foreigners. Unfortunately, most of the Korean newspaper outlets online are conservative, so maybe I’m just reacting to the outrage among conservatives, but a part of me feels that when Koreans see dumb foreigners walking around not wearing a mask, it’s not a hard proposition to sell.

Jair Bolsonaro has been accused of crime against humanity by the Hague for his neglect with covid-19. He has recovered and posted a picture of himself holding hydroxychloroquine almost as a way to troll the whole world right before he drove off in a motorcycle not wearing a mask. It’s disgusting. How could the people of Brazil have this man as president over Lula da Silva, the man who raised the hungriest people in the country out of poverty?

And speaking of war crimes, Brazil is only second in covid-19 cases and deaths. The United States is still much higher in cases and deaths. It’s death rate is not as high as other countries, but that’s not saying much when you have the resources of the richest country in the world and you’re comparing the country to Spain, Italy, Peru, and Sweden. How come I don’t see Donald Trump being charged with neglect regarding covid-19? The man literally played golf as people died under his watch.

It is scary how China has been flexing its muscles throughout the world. It’s been trying to claim ownership over the South China Sea and the Spratly Islands for years now and it’s curious to hear what President Duterte of the Philippines had to say about this in his state of the union. He’s long been accused of kowtowing (haha, see what I did there?) to China, but when he said that he was inept in matters of war and that he can’t do anything when faced with China’s military might should they claim ownership of the South China Sea, it was very telling.

For one, no one is really talking about going to war with China. But for immediate effect, he goes straight to China’s military might in order to justify his helplessness in the matter. He is right to point out that these matters are best sorted out diplomatically, but you don’t start diplomatic negotiations by saying you are weak and inept. Other countries are facing up against China and they are not coming out as weak as Duterte appears. Taiwan, Vietnam, and Indonesia are not kissing Xi Jinping’s ring over the territory.

If anything, it shows how weak of a bully Duterte truly is. He can only lord over those who are weaker than him. He would extra-judiciously have suspected drug addicts and drug pushers killed, some of which are children, but cowers over forces that would literally take what his country has claims over. The country’s national anthem (Lupang Hinirang- The Chosen Land), much like “Oh, Canada” reads like a love song but ends with a very tragic, albeit romantic promise. The last verse goes “but it is glory, ever, when though art wronged, for us thy sons to suffer and die.” But Duterte, he doesn’t have the stomach for this. “Inutil ako riyan (I am useless there), and I am willing to admit it.”

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Coronavirus Life

Heart_apple

I didn’t realize that most of 2020 is going to be me reacting to the coronavirus. It’s been six months now since Korea woke up to Valentine’s Day with a spike in infections. Though New Zealand has been the only country to fully be rid of coronavirus infections, Seoul has been regarded by many as the gold standard in dealing with the pandemic, especially in terms of contact tracing, mask-wearing, social distancing, etc. However, to this day, Korea is still struggling to have infections lower than 30 a day.

A few weeks ago, the country was on its way to having zero daily infections, but after relaxing on rules on bars and clubs, a few clusters popped up. And now ironically, we’re experiencing occasional clusters cause a rise in infections, most often from religious gatherings. A lot of recorded infections are getting caught via the immigration process and are coming from foreigners, but those are at least getting caught coming in.

What’s annoying, is that many foreigners don’t seem to care much about local regulations regarding the virus. It’s not unusual to see foreigners walking around with no masks on. I was planning to go to Haeundae Beach in Busan, but then I see that the beaches are not only super crowded, foreigners are lounging around the beach insisting on not wearing masks even when prompted by authorities to do so. Just a few days ago, a group of foreigners with US military were shooting fireworks at buildings and people, basically ignoring the police who meekly tried to stop them. Ugh. Youth + coronavirus + hooliganism = gross.

Just last week, my evening Korean classes were canceled for the month because one student from a different morning class was diagnosed with the coronavirus. Fortunately, they traced the virus and found that he contracted it from his workplace, which unfortunately is just a few blocks from where I work. They traced his actions using the mobile app we use to enter our class, and through his credit card activities. They also looked at CCTV footage of him and found that he was wearing the mask the whole time he was in the building. This raised a big alarm for my company and I was worried that it might affect me or my job. It still might. I tried to get tested for the virus myself, but I was told that I needed to exhibit symptoms first in order to qualify for a free screening. If I was “just curious,” I would have to pay the equivalent of $120 US.

Now, I’m quite relieved at the amount of surveillance available to track the one person who canceled my classes for the month. I do realize that a lot of this would be impossible in the US or other countries. Not only is the infrastructure not there, but people would also be unwilling to have their privacy or personal freedoms breached.

I mentioned that I was planning to go to the beach. I’ve been looking to travel outside of Seoul for vacation this year since I won’t be able to travel overseas. I don’t really travel around Korea since it can be just as expensive as traveling abroad. Why pay big money to travel in Korea when you can use the same money to travel somewhere more exotic? And yeah, I’ve already done as many exotic things in the country as I can. It takes quite a bit to excite me. So yeah, I’m not too excited getting stuck in traffic going somewhere crowded within Korea this year.

Aside from my vacation, Korean education, and work being affected, I haven’t worked out in a gym for six months now. Though I try to watch what I eat, I could say I’m currently in the worst shape of my life. Living in a small Korean apartment, I don’t really have the space to work out. As for working out in gyms outside, that would still be ill-advised due to the coronavirus. We’ve been ordered to wear masks even while we’re working on our desks at work, and it’s been quite uncomfortable. I can only imagine how hard that would be in the gym or anywhere working out.

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A few interesting things of late.

The mayor of Seoul disappeared last Thursday. And after hours of searching he was found to have committed suicide due to the pressures of a recently opened investigation into allegations of him sexually harassing an assistant. An ally of feminist and progressive causes, it was a bit of a turn especially in the age of #Metoo.

I wasn’t aware of the allegations when I found out about the mayor missing. I remember I used to work with one of the mayor’s assistants, so I shot her a message, “Hey, where’s the mayor?!” just as a way to keep in touch. A couple of back and forts later, I moved on to other things. The next day, I learned that the mayor passed away. I also learned that he could potentially be a monster to women in his close circles. Then I go back that woman I was messaging the day before. Does she know? Has she heard rumors before? Surely, she must. Do I message back, “Hey, sorry about the news”? How do you respond in that situation?

An odd thing about Korean law is that once a suspect of an investigation commits suicide, the investigation is immediately dropped. Now, I have no dog in this fight. The left in country seem to be suggesting that the mayor was a victim of a smear job while the conservatives are trying to press for more investigations. As a westerner, I figure this shouldn’t be the end of the investigation but the beginning of one. A person is dead, and at least one crime might have been committed. Couldn’t the victim still press charges on his estate for damages if the allegations are true? Couldn’t she press and claim damages on his office? How many victims are there? Alternatively, if he is indeed the victim of a smear, isn’t that a crime in itself? I know defamation is a serious crime in Korea. They should be trying to root out this conspiracy if it exists. This is why there should be an investigation.

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ICE in the US is an evil organization. It has canceled the student visas of all international students if they’re only taking online classes due to the pandemic. They are thus trying to pressure schools to open classes and force the students to take the classes in the middle of a worldwide pandemic. This is pure evil. International students are a big source of revenue for schools so they are facing a risk of losing a huge chunk of funds for this year and the foreseeable future. Students on the other hand are now on a limbo. Trump has screwed with their future.

And as I was learning more about this, I also learn that ICE will now be training people on how to make citizens arrest. Great! Empower racists to make citizens arrest on brown people. As if things weren’t bad enough as it is with the police getting carried away with the power they have. Now they’re going to let loose a bunch of overeager racists with their guns on brown people just trying to get by in the middle of a global pandemic. Ugh. Maybe those international students are better off studying elsewhere. The US under Trump is becoming a hole.

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Prom is Coronavirus Casualty (but there’s always Jennifer Lynn Jenkins)

Girl Diver

I met an old acquaintance of mine who had me spend time talking to his daughter. His daughter was studying in Canada but had to suddenly move back to Korea due to the coronavirus. Let’s call her Kelly. Now her education in Canada is in a bit of a limbo. She doesn’t know when and if she could go back to Canada to finish her senior. And worse in Kelly’s mind, she fears that she’s going to miss out on prom. Prom… Ah, to be young and naive. I asked her about her ideas about prom and it was interesting hearing how a lot of it is informed through YA novels and what she’s seen on her Netflix subscription.

I had to tell her that prom in Canada is called “grad.” And I’m not so sure about other kids, but I remember it not being such a big deal to Canadians, at least to me. I remember listening to ‘This American Life’s’ take on prom and one teacher said that it was the time when kids become adults in America. It’s when they dress up as adults, get treated like adults, are allowed to drink, and for a night, think that everything is possible. I remember my grad being a mixed bag. There wasn’t that much hype about it, but I do remember being in an environment where it’s all sort of a blank slate. High school hierarchy was sort off forgotten, tired facades were dropped, and for a night, I found myself socializing with people I normally wouldn’t hang out with. A couple of times I remember thinking to myself, “Hey, that guy ain’t half bad. I should’ve hung out with him more.”

Contrary to the critical hype, I actually went to grad twice. Both with the same person. My date wasn’t really my girlfriend or anything. She was one of my best friends at the time. I graduated one year earlier, so I took her to my grad and she invited me to hers. I was initially planning to invite a girl in my history class to grad with me. But when I called my friend for advice asking that girl out, I ended up asking her out instead. Interestingly enough, I believe the guy the girl in my history class went to grad with ended up marrying her. So that was all good for her. I never would’ve guessed that after seeing her all drunk with her future husband trying to nurse her back to consciousness.

I don’t really remember spending too much time with my date on either nights. I remember renting a limo once. I remember being drunk and getting kicked out on my second night. I remember not only do these events have liquor, they also had gambling, which is a really weird education/initiation for kids. It was like, “hey, in case you didn’t know the rules of black jack before you graduate, here you go!” I remember dancing with a girl whose name I believe was Jennifer Lynn Jenkins (I could be wrong). I always had a crush on her but thought she was too out of my league. She had beautiful long blond hair which seemed to just swish with every turn. I remember her having braces at one point, but then tried fangs in order to fit in. It was a thing back then, I guess. Anyway, for someone so attractive, she seemed to never really stuck with a crowd. I think it’s because she was the pretty girl who just moved from another school on her last year. Anyway, with the democratizing nature of the event, I was able to finally work up the courage and ask her to dance with me. She probably doesn’t remember it, but that was the highlight of all of my grad experience.

Outside of that, both events were mostly just hanging out and waiting for things to happen, just like what most teenagers do. We wait for people to arrive, for things to happen, for things to end. It’s not really exciting. Looking back now, aren’t teenagers dumb? We mostly spent our time waiting. I tell all of this to Kelly and that seemed to dampen the hype a bit for her. But I guess what really turned her the most is the fact that people are expected to have dates at grad. Well, at least that’s what media told her. A lot of people in both of the grads I went to didn’t really have dates. Or maybe they’re like me. I had someone with me, but she’s not really my date in the truest sense of the word. Anyway, most Koreans start dating at a much older age than Westerners. It’s not unusual to see kids in university who’ve never been on dates once. The pressure to have a date on one night in a foreign country with so little time must be daunting for her. But then again, she seems like a good kid. I’m sure some guy would ask her out given the chance.

Anyway, it was fun seeing how big a hype grad (or prom) is to a kid. It seems really foolish to me now. Heck, it seemed fooling to me even during my first year in university. But it’s interesting to see how kids’ minds are so different, even when they believe that they have become adults. Maybe it’s our minds changing significantly as we age, or maybe it’s just the wisdom (or cynicism) brought about by years of experience. I really hope Canada gets the virus under control soon. I feel bad for the young kids missing out on grad (or prom) this year. I hear that some schools are moving their prom events to August, but I’m not sure if that’s too soon for the virus to be under control and for such large gatherings to be safe. In any case, I hope next year, Kelly gets to experience this event which the media has been hyping so much for her.

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A Long Wave

Busy

People need to stop talking about a “second wave” or “the next resurgence.” Outside of China, Singapore, Taiwan, Hong Kong, and South Korea, the world is still pretty much dealing with the first wave. It bothers me that people have been itching for businesses to re-open, to get their hair cut or their nails done, only after a few weeks. So much so that there are protests in some countries which could inevitably spread the virus even further. South Korea has been dealing with the virus and social distancing since February. The rest of the world needs to calm down.

South Korea has been enjoying a good record on getting infection rates down. The country had zero local infections for a number of days. Then over the long weekend, one person came from out of town to Itaewon in Seoul and partied in five bars and clubs. He ended up spreading the coronavirus to a number of people. Just this morning, the number was 52 cases. Unfortunately, the area and a couple of the clubs are popular among the gay community. So contact tracing will be extremely difficult. People would be more secretive about their presence in the area compared to how tight-lipped people were about their relationship with the Shincheonji cult during after the initial outbreak this year.

The incident highlights the greed and hubris of some people, both the business owners and the patrons. Club and bar owners have been itching to get people coming in. I realize they have bills to pay and everything, but this rush to open and fill their venues with people paying in often un-taxable cash has inevitably hurt their business even more. Now the bars and clubs are forced to shut down.

A bit of history. Itaewon is multi-cultural district near the army base in Seoul. A few years ago, due to the music video “Itaewon Freedom,” it became a very popular hangout spot not just for foreigners but also the locals. It caused a lot of Koreans to start their own bars and restaurants and even pushed out many of the foreign establishments which gave the area its distinct character. Later, with news that the army base nearby will be shutting down, real estate prices began to rise dramatically, and many of the businesses began to shut down as well. The place is now filled with buildings being torn down, presumably for bigger buildings to be built. Business hasn’t really been good for the area recently due to a Japanese boycott and the coronavirus. The place looks like a shell of its former self if you walk around during the day. Then a few weeks ago, ‘Itaewon Class,’ a popular webtoon-turned-K-Drama gave the area a bit of push, especially since the drama focused on upbeat nightlife and gorgeous young people. Unfortunately, I think the bar and club owners got ahead of themselves. Many clubs opened with sanitizers at the door and masks laughably “mandatory.” And now with these businesses being forced to closed, the area is dead both during the day and at night.

It annoys me how lame (yes, LAME) the people who insist on clubbing and partying during the pandemic are. Can’t they read the room? And yes, I’ve had my clubbing phase before, but I’m sure the minute someone tells me that masks and sanitizers are mandatory, I’d probably cool it a little bit. How fun could it be going out and partying wearing a mask outside of Halloween?! There are other ways to get laid! Or better yet, DON’T get laid. Stay in for a few days. It won’t kill you (It won’t kill your old relatives either). Even Pornhub is famously helping by providing their premium content for free. It annoys me still that with Itaewon bars and clubs closing, many are going to Gangnam and maybe even Hongdae to party. This is utter hubris. This is the Korean version of spring breakers in Florida.

And now people are on alert again. One of the infected happens to be US military as well. A few are foreigners. More than ever, people are talking about how many foreigners in the country seem to walk around thinking that they are invulnerable to the virus by not wearing masks. They don’t seem to understand that the reason why the masks and the whole sanitation and social distancing works is that if everyone does it, the greater the chance it will be effective. They can afford not to wear a mask because everyone else is. And that’s just being a selfish, ethnocentric ass hat. At least wear one because “when in Rome…” A collective effort is how Korea managed to get its coronavirus situation under control. It’s when actors stray from this collective effort that leads to an outbreak: the cult breaking protocol, and now with these dumb clubs.

It annoys me even more that the incident is probably reinforcing the stereotype of foreigners (and perhaps gay people) being too carefree or not being serious people. Just this morning, I was encouraged out of nowhere to tell my friends who went clubbing over the weekend to get tested. Huh?! Why me?? For years, people assume I have connections to the club/party scene simply because I’m a foreigner.

The thing is, even during the worst of the pandemic. I still went out to restaurants. I still went out to bars. But the establishments I go to are around my neighborhood. They are in the community which I would probably have contact with at some point since work was never really shut down for me. I don’t think it’s smart to travel, go to crowded places with other people from out of town or wherever, and inadvertently spread the virus. People still need to be wary of spreading the virus and not indulge in overly unnecessary risks.

So with Korea reeling and in a bit of a panic over the recent (hopefully) mini outbreak, why are other countries so confident that they can ride through it like more people won’t get infected? I realize companies want people working just so they wouldn’t cover their unemployment insurance costs, but other than that, how do you explain everyday Joe-Schmoe itching to go out there, get a haircut, and maybe catch the virus and kill grandma? There’s no second wave, folks. Korea, which is a model country in terms of the coronavirus is still dealing with the virus like it’s the first wave. Businesses are still hurting. People are still strapped financially. But with much of the virus still being unknown, it’s really best to just stick to social distancing and calm down for a bit. Get used to this new life for a while. I know, I know. It’s easy for me to say that while I still have a job. But, I have a feeling it’s going to be a very long and painful ride, and pushing life to normalcy regardless of the risks would simply make things worse.

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Loving Too Much

Cronus

I love Japan. Prior to the coronavirus, I used to go there every year. Heck, I dress like a fake Hawaiian person, just like many people do in Fukuoka. But just because you love a country doesn’t mean you have to turn a blind eye to the many things that are wrong with the country. It’s infuriating watching the early coverage of Japan regarding the coronavirus.

First off, commentators and “experts” were opining that Japan had a low coronavirus infection rate due to the country’s culture of wearing masks whenever a person is ill and their general cleanliness. This implies that other countries were somewhat less clean, doesn’t it? Singapore was hard hit early on by the virus, and I would argue that Singapore is a much cleaner country than Japan.

I was watching a documentary about the virus in Asia and it irked me how Japan was being covered (https://youtu.be/_wox36bFDqE) especially on the 36-minute mark. It just reeks of a superiority complex. And it doesn’t help that the French correspondent just fawns at the people’s commentary and doesn’t ask any challenging question. Which is another thing I find problematic. At the time of filming, France was having a surge of coronavirus cases. The French corresponded should be well aware of this. The French, much like most of Europe, didn’t take the virus too seriously, and was hard hit as a consequence. And yet, the French correspondent, like a proper weeaboo, just smiles and ignores the hidden danger of the virus. He even took his kids to a cherry viewing festival. No masks, just smiles.

The documentary is outdated by now, but it shows the willingness of people to give Japan all of the benefits of the doubt due to their love for things Japanese. Anime and manga are great. Sushi is delicious. The people are often very polite and can be charmingly quirky. But that doesn’t excuse many of the things that are wrong in the country.

The current government is horribly right wing. Abe often flirts with nationalist sentiments. Many Japanese are in total denial regarding war crimes and their involvement in World War II. They can be quite comfortable with blatant misogyny. Racism and xenophobia can often be excused as “cultural differences.” They are in denial regarding Fukushima. They seem to relish eating whales for no good reason. And these are just things off the top of my head.

I remember Takeshi Kitano once produced a panel talk show featuring foreigners called, “What’s Wrong with Japan.” It was unique because instead of having foreigners constantly detail how wonderful their host country is (Korean TV can be guilty of this), it asked foreigners what they didn’t like about Japan and how it can be improved. Instead of telling viewers what they probably already know and agree with (which can get boring and repetitive), it gave them a more critical view point. And the show wasn’t intended to be malicious. It was more about love and wanting some growth.

Anyway, going back to the coronavirus situation. Japan is still not testing as many people. They are also not very upfront regarding their infection and death rates. It annoyed me that even after a recent surge, I still occasionally see articles wondering “How is Japan getting low infection rates despite limited testing and contact tracing?” The love for Japan seems to have eclipsed some people’s logic.

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Money for the People

Buddha

In Canada, people in need during the coronavirus crisis would be given $2000 a month for four months. I’ve read from people going through the process and even read through the guidelines, and it seems simple enough. Not everyone would qualify of course. The program is targeted towards those who have lost their jobs or are struggling because of the lockdown. It’s not a free for all. Someone I know who hasn’t worked for ten years asked if they qualify for monetary assistance. As someone who is essentially retired and hasn’t paid income tax forever, he doesn’t really qualify. This is Canada taking care of it’s most vulnerable citizens. Coupled with universal healthcare, I think it’s not that bad. It could be better, but it’s still good.

In the US, they have a similar program which gives out $1200 to people help them out. Other countries have assistance programs of different amounts. How much each program actually helps is debatable, but the concept is all the same. People have lost their jobs or are not earning as much. They need help. Also, money needs to be moving around in order to maintain the economy. It shouldn’t just be static, otherwise there will be greater effects in the long run.

South Korea just unveiled a stimulus package that would help the lower 70% of the population. It’s a lump sum of 1000 Won to help people in the form of vouchers or check cards. As little as I earn, I don’t really qualify for assistance. I’m still currently employed and working every day. And though things have been tighter in the past couple of months, I’m still able to pay my bills and go out once in a while. I don’t really begrudge others for getting benefits. I’m just grateful that I’m still in a comfortable position not to require it.

Unfortunately, that hasn’t been the tone in the past few days in the country. Many people who are against the Korean president are complaining that he is essentially buying the support of people right before the upcoming elections. Also, many are complaining that it is unfair that the “bonus” is not universal and that they do not qualify. There’s also a conspiracy theory that the flattening of the curve in the country is a complete lie designed to make the current administration look good.

Well, first off, buying the support of people prior to an election is what every politician does in terms of their promises. Telling people that they’ll lower taxes, improve the economy, or whatever will ultimately impact the voters’ bank accounts. Offering the lower 70% a small financial assistance in the midst of a crisis is the least a country could do in the current situation. I just walked through a neighborhood near my workplace and it’s depressing to see all of the business that were shuttered due to a lack of tourists. People need financial assistance and more. This undeniable reality has become so evident that just recently, all of the parties have adopted some sort of financial assistance platform to help individuals.

Regarding artificially flattening the curve. Anyone who trumpets this doesn’t really follow politics well. An administration facing a crisis would more often see a rise in approval levels than not. George Bush saw his poll numbers rise during 9/11. Even Donald Trump is enjoying a rise in his poll numbers. A country in crisis would naturally root for their leader even if they don’t normally support him or her. You want your country to succeed. If Moon Jae-In is artificially deflating the number of infections, then he is going to make it a non-issue prior to the elections. This is similar to how Japan tried to make coronavirus a none-issue prior to the Olympics. The problem with this however is two-fold. One, once the coronavirus becomes a none-issue, it opens up the field to people who can criticize and proclaim they could’ve done better without much consequences. If you were in power, wouldn’t you want this right after an election? Second, if the lie becomes too untenable, then the political backlash would be so much worse. Moon Jae-In and his administration doesn’t have to worry too much at the moment. Well, not so much that they need to resort to shady tactics.

Anyway, I don’t want to delve into too much Korean politics. I’m just happy that some people are getting some help, sad that they are not getting enough, and grateful for every day that I’m able to work. And as for complaining about some people getting benefits while others don’t. One should look at their neighbor’s plate only to see if they have enough food to eat, not to check if they have too much.

 

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Online Musings

Shrimp

A few things about new life online:

I used to look down at the University of Phoenix and all of these diploma mills which have completely online education programs. It would appear that I was being dumb, especially now that most educational institutions have moved all of their curriculum online. What’s going to be challenging, and one that I’m trying to figure out myself, is how these programs will be dealing with testing and evaluation. Of course, some fields by their nature can be very easily adapted to distance testing be it through a timed online test or via long-form mail-in essays, but how about others? In any case, more people are going to have to be creative trying to come up with ways to educate and test outside of the classroom, and I’m trying to figure out how to basically make testing some skills cheat-proof despite the distance (part of my real job). It’ll be interesting to see how other people approach this problem.

Speaking of prematurely looking down on things. I remember Howard Stern looking down on podcasts and Youtube broadcasts. But now it seems everyone has no choice bu to adapt to Youtube broadcasting now that it’s not advisable to be in television or radio studios. Big names like Stephen Colbert and Seth Myers are working out the kinks to broadcasting at home and they have this sort of guerrilla amateurish vibe to them compared to longtime Youtube broadcasters. I’m not saying that Youtubers are looking to be the more superior form of broadcasters in these coronavirus times. Howard Stern, despite being at home, still managed to replicate the vibe he got from broadcasting in his old studio, complete with all of his staff working from their homes. The late night shows still come out pretty clever and entertaining. So how do these shows manage to do better in my opinion? It’s the writing. They actually have talented writers working hard on them. I don’t want to generalize, but many Youtube shows rely on one gimmick or simply run on the personality of the Youtuber. The ones that are actually good would have proper editors, writers, and producers.

And so now that most education and entertainment is now online. Doesn’t that make Internet connection a basic necessity?

I wonder how apps like Tinder and Grindr are doing these days. Early last year, Tinder began marketing heavily in South Korea. They’ve been in the country for a while but since last year, they began pushing it as a means to find friends of similar interests, not as a hook-up app. But now that everyone is social distancing even in South Korea where the coronavirus is starting to be under control, I can’t imagine people using it too much. And speaking of hooking up, what about people who normally hook up with people? I wonder how they are doing these days. Thinking of all the polygamists, open-relationship havers, and lotharios out there.

I myself have been more active online recently than usual. I don’t normally go out and meet people to socialize prior to the coronavirus pandemic, so I guess I’ve adjust better than most people. I’ve trained myself to be a curmudgeon at a young age and it’s paying off in spades. In any case, Instagram and Twitter are getting quite a workout. There’s family on Facebook, but it’s weird cause I imagine everyone would be just like me now, living like an expat separated from others, whose only connection to friends and family is online. Ignoring people on Facebook or any platform online would be truly, TRULY ignoring them.

Netflix was just introduced to South Korea last November. Whoever brokered that deal must feel like a prophetic genius. I worry about TV shows, movies, and media in general though. We already don’t have sports. At some point, if this keeps up, we’ll be running out of new movies and shows in the hopper. I’m already watching shows I normally would’ve skipped. Even the production of big studio pornography would be in danger. Most would probably be home cams and independent productions.

Online forums can be the most depressing place one can visit. There’s Twitter and its cynicism, but online forums, especially with expats in the country can be especially depressing. I don’t recommend it. If you’re thinking of going online to find people in similar circumstances, don’t do it. It’s just going to get you more depressed. Find stuff to be outraged with online. That’s more helpful than being depressed.

Trump and many conservatives recently predicted that the economic fallout caused by the coronavirus pandemic would cause people to want to commit suicide. Just last week, many conservative pundits online have been somewhat suggesting that the death of senior citizens would be preferable than a recession. Ghoulish. Well, since South Korea is basically a month into the future in terms of the virus and suicide rates have been traditionally high in the country, I decided to look at the numbers. In 2019, Koreans have been lamenting that the lackluster economy has been driving people to commit suicide, with the rate being 24.6 per 100,000 in 2016 and expected to grow further. Well, it’s now 2020. The economy hasn’t gotten much better and the coronavirus has made things much worse. The suicide rate in South Korea is somewhere around 26.9 per 100,000. It’s not really that high an increase, in my opinion. I still feel incredibly depressed and each day is a repetitive nightmare of meaningless routines, but I don’t feel any worse than usual.

Thank God for some good long video games coming this month. Unfortunately, while many of them are online, I notice that not many video games being released recently (or these days) are designed to be played couch co-op. They’re either one player games or games to be played with several people online, just not the person you happen to be in the house with. How is a person supposed to bond with people they are quarantined with? Tsk tsk. Seems like a missed opportunity in the apocalypse.

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During the Apocalypse

Alright

Qwerty Magazine, an English literary journal from the University of New Brunswick recently included my works in their fall/winter issue. I’m very pleased with how it turned out. Ever since university, I always thought that my works don’t really fit well in a gallery setting. The images are too small and it requires a more intimate inspection than what is normally done in a gallery visit. This is why I had my first collection of works published shortly after graduating.

Anyway, a big thank you to Qwerty for including me. In these coronavirus times, people are canceling art openings and many galleries are struggling. There really is no good reason to be gathering with a big group of people, unless it’s for a vital cause. Looking at art and consuming free wine and cheese is hardly something one should risk getting the coronavirus for. This is why it’s good to have alternatives to showing my art, be it online or publications. Now, it can be more difficult selling works online as opposed to directly meeting with people in galleries, but I was never really big on selling my art anyway.

I don’t really care if people buy them. You see them, you enjoy them… I’m content.

I have come to a hard epiphany though, and it’s not just me, many gallery owners I know have come to realize this as well: we have to improve our Internet game. Outside of Instagram, I don’t really have much exposure online in regards to my works. And I haven’t even really been that active one Instagram until about a year and a half ago. I’m not really set up for online sales, and people who are interested in my works have to go through a prolonged, archaic process of getting money transferred.

Many galleries are similar. They don’t really have a platform for promoting artists’ works online. They are simply there to provide a space in the real world to show works. Here, like many others in Canada as well, they rely on the artists to bring their own people to the gallery, people already familiar with the artist. They don’t have their own community of art lovers independent of the current artist showing their works.

Once the physical gallery is taken away, like for example because of the coronavirus, there is very little incentive for artists to get involved with many galleries since they don’t have a platform to launch the artist out to the greater art community. Artists would be better off marketing their works themselves since they might have the same digital clout, if not bigger, than many galleries. Galleries, much like artists, need to improve their Internet game and build a robust network which can promote artists outside of the physical gallery. And that’s the biggest change right there, they need to promote the artists, not really on people who already know the artist to bring digital and physical traffic. It’s not enough just to provide physical space. Otherwise, they would become less relevant as time goes by.

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