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Monday, June 22, 2020

Nine new museums in Seoul by 2023


Last Sunday*, Seoul announced nine new museums for the 3 years to come, after inaugurating five others over the past three years. As this map shows, downtown's dominance in cultural sites shall grow even stronger, but a few underserved neighborhoods will get their fair share:



The 5 museums inaugurated between 2017 and 2019 (NB this list doesn't count infrastructures that are not managed by the city, like the Seoul HOUR opened last year**:

The 9 museums to be inaugurated by 2023:

Melike Altinisik Architects' winning project for Robot Science Museum
As you can see, quantity doesn't always mean quality, but I'm looking forward to returning to neighborhoods I haven't roamed in a while... and I really can't wait to see that last one. Please, don't disappoint me!

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* see "사진·한식·로봇…서울시 '테마형 뮤지엄' 9개소 개관" (Seoul Metropolitan Government 20200622)
** see "Seoul Hall of Urbanism and Architecture, Seoul Biennale 2019 Symposium"

Wednesday, June 17, 2020

KIM Yo-jong Crash Landing On You

Within a couple of weeks and with considerable help from the South Korean government, KIM Yo-jong pretty much effortlessly achieved her goals: claiming head of state level, beefing up her military credentials, boosting campaigns against defectors on both sides of the DMZ, paving the way for a conversation with China...



Well that escalated quickly, but without really escalating that badly. Just follow @theSeoulVillage Twitter timeline:

1) KIM Yo-jong's first and decisive victory came within hours, and probably as a surprise to herself: shortly after she asked South Korea to outlaw counter-propaganda leaflets from defectors, Cheong Wa Dae obeyed, and a new law did just that. Regardless of what you think of these leaflets, in a democracy, the executive and the legislative powers simply don't give in that quickly to someone who is not even the head of a dictatorship. Worse, this came as a betrayal to defectors, who got vilified on both sides of the DMZ, ruining overnight decades of efforts to help them overcome discrimination. The move, condemned by Human Rights Watch, echoed last year's appalling surrender of two defectors to North Korean authorities, against all normal procedures.

"MOON Jae-in gives in again. Obeys KIM Yo-jong and bans leaflets..." (@theSeoulVillage - twitter.com/theseoulvillage/status/1268448381019418624)
"A few hours. All it took for the ruling party to come up with a law pleasing #KimYojong. Laws against #discrimination or stalkers? Not a priority. #NorthKorea first it seems" (@theSeoulVillage - twitter.com/theseoulvillage/status/1268692368888225792)
2) In the days that followed, North Korea said they would sever the communications with the South, and refused to answer any call. By anything but a coincidence, and as the DPRK staged demonstrations against defectors, Seoul decided out of the blue (house) to slash their reallocation budgets, effectively stabbing defectors in the back once more:

"Open season for #NorthKorea #defectors, continued: after obeying #KimYojong, #MoonJaein govt keeps destroying decades of work to help them overcome #discrimination in #SouthKorea" (@theSeoulVillage - twitter.com/theseoulvillage/status/1271465125011009538) - Jeongmin Kim @jeongminnkim · Jun 12 - South Korea will cut this year’s budget for North Korean defector resettlement in the South, Seoul’s unification ministry confirmed 
3) Why stop when you're on a roll and everybody's playing your game? The very same day, KIM Yo-jong rewards this new zealous good deed from MOON Jae-in by upping the ante, and to announce that she will 'exercise (her) power authorized by the Supreme Leader':

"#SaturdayNightFever (Will #KimYojong's latest demand/threat pay off as well as the last one?) (@theSeoulVillage - twitter.com/theseoulvillage/status/1271796329316925442)
Laura Bicker @BBCLBicker · Jun 13 North Korea’s Kim Yo Jong tonight. “We will soon take a next action. By exercising my power authorized by the Supreme Leader, our Party and the state, I gave an instruction to the arms of the department in charge of the affairs with enemy to decisively carry out the next action”
"From Photobomb Queen to Bomb Queen, #KimYojong definitely cementing her badass 😎  profile. Note how Kim The Fourth put Military First (and next) in her pocket. Already calling the shots while Bro #KimJongun downs them?"  (@theSeoulVillage - twitter.com/theseoulvillage/status/1271988923904876545)

4) From then on, we knew that she had to walk the talk, and to do very soon something miliary-ish. Something destructive. Something more spectacular than blowing up Punggye-ri's shack outhouse, but something less lethal and war-like than the Yeongpyeong Shelling or the Cheonan Sinking. Something that would reach over the MDL to hit South Korea:


"There's no defusing, #NorthKorea must strike, and that will cement #KimYojong's credentials as Kim The Fourth. The question is less when (soon) than how." (@theSeoulVillage - twitter.com/theseoulvillage/status/1272684122629042176)
"#DPRK must somehow destroy something, but it should be, on Paekdu Richter's scale, more significant than blowing up #Punggyeri shack outhouse, but less lethal than #Yeonpyeong Shelling or #Cheonan Sinking. Across the #DMZ anyway... #baekduology"
(@theSeoulVillage - twitter.com/theseoulvillage/status/1272684124411580416)
"
That, of course, with #NorthKorea's ongoing #hacking campaigns..." ((@theSeoulVillage - twitter.com/theseoulvillage/status/1272684764097462272)

4)  As many predicted, KIM Yo-jong ended up blowing up Kaesong's inter-korean liaison office. No DML crossing, but you could at least see something from the other side. The greyish images from the South failed to make this underwhelming event more impressive. Basically, the North shoots itself in the foot to destroy the shoes offered by the South.... Kim The Fourth? More Baby Shark than Jaws.


"A minima disruption: #NorthKorea eventually blew up the Inter-#Korea liaison office minutes before stock exchange closing. Disappointingly predictable." (@theSeoulVillage - twitter.com/theseoulvillage/status/1272788161467265024)
"Didn't even cross the #MDL" (@theSeoulVillage - twitter.com/theseoulvillage/status/1272844777910726662)
"So for her maiden strike, #KimYojong scored rather low (scare-wise, less Jaws, more #BabyShark-doo-doo-doo). Embarrassing, but #SouthKorea's 'retaliation' is simply laughable: cut the electricity of the just blown up liaison office!" (@theSeoulVillage - twitter.com/theseoulvillage/status/1272852891741483014)
5) The next day, North Korea released their own colorful images, more firework-like, with splinters and debris flying everywhere, damaging nearby buildings. Of course the aim was not to neatly demolish a nondescript low rise building, but to simulate a military attack on a Southern landmark. Barely more impressive than blowing up mock-ups of the Blue House, but from a propaganda point of view, mission accomplished for (future?) Marshalll KIM Yo-jong.

"When #NorthKorea blows up something, sparks have to fly. For the #Kaesong inter-#Korea liaison office, debris flew in every direction, probably causing unnecessary damage. But what counts is the photo op, to help Photobomb Queen #KimYojong become Bomb Queen Kim The Fourth:" (@theSeoulVillage - 20200617)

So basically KIM Yo-jong succeeded beyond her expectations thanks to very complacent partners down South. Unification Minister KIM Yeon-chul resigned, and the two names advanced to succeed him used to be activists in favor of reunification under North Korean rule... doesn't look as if the KIM Dynasty should fear much on that front.

Of course, this is not about North vs South. The KIMs don't expect much from there, and want progress elsewhere. The US? They will put more pressure on Donald TRUMP, but closer to November in order to get the best deal / quid-pro-quo against an October Surprise. Depending on the fallout of John BOLTON bombs, opportunities may rise in the short term. What they seem to be needing urgently is support at home and from China.

As THAE Yong-ho noted, North Korea often bullies South Korea in order to get the US involved, and ultimately China called to the rescue. And nowadays, the situation doesn't seem that rosy inside the hermit kingdom, where coronavirus could well be raging. NK News mentioned embassies abroad trying to collect PPEs and other medical resources. Defectors say support seems to be eroding in Pyeongyang, and the lower middle class took a big hit when scores of pigs where culled (unlike cows, they are private properties).

The focus on defectors struck me as telling of a truly dire situation. Yes the regime needs scapegoats to divert from its failures, but acknowledging the importance of people who fled it clearly feeds THAE Yong-ho's growing aura in the North. That's a risk, but punishing those who spread news of him anywhere (North or South) has obviously become a matter of survival.
"#NorthKorea #propaganda focusing on #defectors, giving them extra visibility. Regime taking all sorts of risks on non-state scapegoats during #pandemic: popularity of #Thaeyongho & co is a systemic risk for them. The message: no mercy for 'traitors' who watch defector materials"  (@theSeoulVillage - twitter.com/theseoulvillage/status/1270526531111014400)

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Thursday, May 28, 2020

Eternal Shame

When LEE Yong-soo was a kid, she became one of Imperial Japan military's 200,000+ sex slaves. In 1992, she was among the first 'Comfort Women' who came out, overcoming their shame, and speaking about the unspeakable. And people listened to this amazing human being all the way to the States, where she helped Mike HONDA pass a landmark House Resolution (H.R. 121).

Long before Greta THUNBERG How-Dare-You-ed Donald TRUMP and other world leaders, the ever young Yong-soo Look-At-Me-ed Shinzo ABE with her powerful voice, the voice of hundreds of thousands of young girls who were stolen their youth, raped, tortured, murdered.

Now 91, she's still fighting for justice. As if fighting for the resolution of 'Comfort Women' tragedies were not enough, LEE Yong-soo has now to expose the corrupt pseudo-activists who used her and fellow survivors for their own profit. Over the past weeks, scandals around YOON Mee-hyang have been piling up at a CHOI Soon-sil / CHO Kuk pace. The ruling party keeps defending her as blindly as it did with CHO Kuk months ago (see "Moon Landing - The Cheong Wa Dae Curse"), and here again, they should be doing the exact opposite. At least, this time, MOON Jae-in avoids defending the culprit publicly...


Back in 2011 - "One Thousand Wednesdays"
Even before the prosecutor started investigating her, the public has judged YOON guilty on all charges. And just like with CHO Kuk, a large majority thinks she should resign (she was elected a MP last month). YOON doesn't seem to feel any remorse, and even displays the most shameless behaviors (accusing LEE of senility probably among her lowest lows). I only met YOON once, years ago, but she struck me as someone who preferred the status quo to compromise. She already measured her achievements in terms of real estate, and the actual resolution of the tragedy was much better heralded by LEE .

LEE Yong-soo Halmoni leaves a very different impression. She radiates energy, compassion, and humor. She fights for justice. Not for Korea, not against Japan. She aims at reconciliation to help both countries face the past and the future soundly, without fueling mutual hatred. She reaches for the youth not to indoctrinate them, but to help them make their own unbiased opinions.

We must keep demanding justice for the victims of Imperial Japan, we must now also demand justice for them as victims of pseudo-activists. Real activists and the ruling party should immediately stop defending YOON against LEE.

Don't they realize how bad you look when you chose the wrong side of justice? Don't they realize that CHO Kuk and YOON Mee-hyang scandals are all about people who corrupted activism, people who betrayed the very ideals they pretended to stand for? Don't they realize that supporting them blindly is the worst thing genuine activists should do?

The more YOON Mee-hyang tries to silence LEE Hamoni, the more it backfires. She eventually decided to remain below radar surface until parliamentary immunity protects her. But Korea shouldn't let that happen.

Imagine one instant if Dear LEE Yong-soo Halmoni were to pass away before Justice is delivered:
  • We already know how History will judge all the Japanese governments that not only refused to resolve the 'Comfort Women' issues, but also tried to silence her and prevent Japan and the world from knowing about these atrocities.
  • We can guess how History will remember YOON Mee-hyang
  • But how would those who defended YOON against LEE ever forgive themselves? It's up to them to avoid eternal shame.
One sure thing: LEE Yong-soo Halmoni will forever stand as an inspiring hero, who overcame her shame to expose those who truly deserved it. Regardless of the flag or banner they carry.

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Thursday, April 30, 2020

Seoul VillageS (free ebook)

-
I've walked through all of Seoul's 600+ neighborhoods, and you've come across a significant number of them in this excuse for a blog, but today, you're invited to my fictional Seoul.

Welcome to my 'Seoul Villages', a collection of 12 Seoul 'dragedies', among which 'Year Of The Dog', and 'Guisin-dong', and a few short stories initially published in French. Don't try to escape this ghost neighborhood, don't waste your energy tearing off that plant, and don't even think about catching Korea's most elusive shaman: you just can't shake off death. So let this fictional Seoul claim your soul.

You can download for free 'Seoul Villages' along with my other free ebooks 'on Google Play Books. Check my website for my other books (NB y compris en français).

Your feedback and reviews are welcome (e.g. on Google Play Books, on Amazon, on my dragedies website...).  



Stephane - April 2020


Seoul Village 2020
Welcome to our Korean Errlines! Follow Seoul Village on Facebook and Twitter, follow me on Instagram.
NEW: download 'Seoul Villages', my collection of short stories (free ebook)
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Seoul Villages, the map:
  • Crossroads and forking paths - a foreword by Mr. Ho
  • Seoul Village(s) - a foreword by the author
  • Guisin-dong
  • Year of the Dog
  • de Vermis Seoulis
  • Sweat dream
  • Black Snow
  • Korean wave
  • Tchik!
  • Comin'up next
  • Seoul Metamorphosis
  • (Alleyways – Ogin-dong, Autumn)
  • Hunting for Kim Mudangnim
  • (Alleyways – Sajik-dong, somewhen)
  • Lexicon – Korean terms
'Seoul Villages' - Copyright © Stephane MOT 2013 - All rights reserved. All characters appearing in this work are fictitious. Any resemblance to real persons, living, dead, or beyond those stages, is purely coincidental. www.stephanemot.com - www.dragedies.com



Sunday, April 26, 2020

Lower Sejongdaero's turn

Seoul's most defining avenue, Sejongdaero, is getting all the attention it deserves from the municipal government. After the highly controversial plans to revamp its upper half (see "Gwanghwamun Square 3.0 re-Deep-Surfaces"), the focus seems to be on the lower half, between Sejongno sageori and Seoul Station. This includes cosmetic changes in adjacent neighborhoods, most recently in Jeong-dong (see "Jeong-dong forever"), or around Sungnyemun (Jung-gu decided to harmonize signage for 80 stores between Seoullo 7017 and the gate*), but now a more ambitious program will help pedestrians, cyclists, and tree huggers reclaim a space almost as car-centric as the upper section before Gwanghwamun Square.


Sejong-daero towards Gwanghwamun, viewed from the Deoksugung-Seoul Plaza crossing

The main changes (drawn here by Kim Yeong-eun for Yonhap News Agency**), expected by the end of the year, consist in reducing the number of traffic lanes (from 12 to 7-9; at least that's consistent with the new bottlenecks conceived further North around the avenue), and improve the pedestrian experience, particularly around Deoksugung and Sungnyemun / Namdaemun Market:



A lot of trees shall be added to widened sidewalks, with some species diversity which is really positive. Even if naming this "Sejong Forest" (세종숲) sounds a bit over the top (at least the Gyeongui Line Forest Park was more honest with its "숲길", which could be translated into 'Forest walk / way / street').


A plaza and a tree trail shall improve the barren entrance to Namdaemun Market from Sungnyemun


I'm looking forward to the new bicycle lane all along the 1.5km stretch (I criticized the city for not adding some on day one when they renovated the Northern section of Sejongdaero for Gwanghwamun Square), and the eased pedestrian circulation around Sungnyemun, which even after the changes will remain basically a peninsula in a sea of cars:


A better experience for pedestrians and cyclists, but still car centric

Moving back to Deoksugung and Jeong-dong, this close up of Daehanmun shows that, beyond the extension of the plaza and sidewalks, Deoksugung-gil is likely to become car-free, at least partly (and I presume at least on weekends and holidays, like Insadong-gil):



Overall, nothing revolutionary, but significant improvements for Sejong-daero. Needless to say, Mayor Park Won-soon would love to see part of downtown's growing - at least B.C. / Before Coronavirus - tourist traffic walk closer to his pet project Seoullo 7017. before the 2022 presidential elections.
 Again, I can't stress enough the importance of Sejong-daero, the spine of downtown Seoul, at its original core. We're talking urban stem cells here. ICYMI here's the short video I made to explain the dynamic map of Seoul intra muros a.k.a. Sadeaemun (fortress walls, main gates, mountains and streams, key landmarks, vertical and horizontal axes...):




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* "서울 중구, 세종대로 등 145개 점포 간판 정비" (Yonhap News 20200420).
** "세종대로 1.5km 구간 보행로 대폭 확장…차로 12개→9개 축소" (Yonhap News 20020426)


Tuesday, April 7, 2020

Jeong-dong forever

Thank you Chosun Ilbo for feeding this stroll-starved quarantined Seoulite with Jeong-dong news ("서울 貞洞이 확 바뀐다, 근대역사 숨쉬는 거리로" - Chosun Ilbo 20200407). So. Seoul intends to invest KRW 20 bn by 2022 into what is already one of the capital's most walkable neighborhoods. Basically, a lot of storytelling to connect the dots, plus a few new dots. 

Sidewalks and signs shall be improved along the 2,6 km scenic walk signaled on this map

But first, let me tell you another story about this neighborhood you think you know.

Jeong-dong basically draws a diagonal between two palaces: Deoksugung and Gyeonghuigung, and owes its name to Jeongneung, a royal tomb of the Joseon dynasty. Actually, it used to be also known as Jeongneung-dong.

Wait a minute. Indeed, Jeongneung is located in Jeongneung-dong, but that's in Seongbuk-gu, quite far away.

Blame King Sejong's father for that: King Taejeong was the one who, in 1408, moved the tomb to the opposite end of town, and even beyond the mountain, the city, and its fortress walls. Real estate-wise and  feng shui-wise, quite a downgrade. Why would Taejeong disgrace a royal tomb? Because it honored Queen Sindeok, the second wife of his grand dad, King Taejo, the founder of both the Josson dynasty and Seoul. And Taejeong's grandmother was Taejo's first wife, Queen Shinui. So even if Sindeok played a role in the capital's genesis, she had to get out of royal sight.

Now guess where Jeongneung was located, initially: in Today's British Embassy.

To me, this anecdote illustrates perfectly Jeong-dong's shift from its royal origins to its modern diplomatic tradition.

Of course, this is where Germany, Russia, the US, the UK, France, Italy, Belgium built their consulates at the end of the XIXth century. But if the Brits are still there (see 'Seoul-upon-Han and Yeongguk-dong'), and even if the Russian Legation tower was restored a dozen years ago, most of the rest is gone.

Seoul city intends to revamp Jeongdong Park, at the feet of the Russian Legation to have it themed after the area's rich diplomatic tradition, with a tribute to these lost buildings. Will more people come than today? For the moment, this quiet green patch remains backstage from Jeongdong-gil as well as from Saemunan-ro (accessible through a steep staircase). And Jeongdong-gil itself is already a pleasant, tree-lined stroll dotted with actual buildings full of history or culture: Jeongdong Theater, Sina Memorial Hall (Asiance HQs), Chung Dong First Methodist Church, surviving structures of Ewha Hakdang and Pai Chai Hakdang (Appenzeller Noble Memorial Museum), Jungmyeongjeon Hall...

What always struck me when I saw old pictures of Jeong-dong was the fact that it looked much hillier than today, and now I know why: there was indeed a hill, named after Hwangtohyeon, but it was erased during the occupation. Among the few new dots added to the plan, Seoul will create a small Hwangtohyeon square to commemorate a hill in front of the small police station at the Sejongno intersection.

Most citizens discovered this most central neighborhood when Deoksugung-gil was redesigned in 1998, marking the revival of downtown Seoul as a pedestrian friendly destination*. Another boost came with the 2002 World Cup, when millions gathered right next door on Sejongdaero around City Hall, and what would become the new Seoul Plaza. The SeMA, inaugurated in 1988, would also be renovated in 2002, and its garden at the roundabout remains a popular, Instagrammable spot. 2002 also happens to be the birth year of my beloved Seoul Museum of History at the other end of the neighborhood. More recently, the Seoul Biennales brought new magnets on each side of Jeong-dong: Donuimun Museum Village near Gyeonghuigung (2007), and Seoul HOUR (2019) near Deoksugung.

Of course there's much more than this SE-NW diagonal**. But until a few years ago, the Northeast section of Deoksugung-gil used to be closed to the public around Habib House, the US Ambassador's residence. Thanks to Mark Lippert and Grigsby his basset hound, this key axis opened up, completing at last Jeong-dong's anchoring to all neighboring areas.

Jeong-dong will remain future-proof if it keeps at the same time respecting its past and evolving.

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* see "Jeongdong-kill"
** Note that its Southeastern half used to be known as Sojeong-dong (close to the 'somun' - Seodomun), and its Northwestern half as Daejeong-dong (close to 'daemun' - Donuimun). About Seoul's Sadaemun and Sasomun, see my small video 'Drawing Sadaemun'

Sunday, March 29, 2020

Kudos to Korea's 4 Ts, but please no complacency

From pariah in February to role model in March, South Korea illustrates what kind of swings to expect from the roller coaster our species boarded last December. Watch out for Loch-Ness-monster-shaped graphics - there won't be just one curve to flatten, but series of waves that can either be reduced to wavelets by sound leadership and smart citizens, or grown into tsunamis by covidiots of all sizes and shapes. In between, normal people will deliver results that anyway won't belong to normal times.
 
As the 'Spanish Flu' illustrates, fighting pandemics requires whack-a-mole resilience
 
 
As a French Seoulite (right now experiencing the transition between confinement in Paris and quarantine in Seoul*), I can't help but draw parallels between Korea and France, who both saw their first major clusters originate from mass gatherings held by cults in February: Shincheonji in Daegu, Porte Ouverte Chretienne in Mulhouse.
 
As an observer of national politics and international affairs, I can't help but draw parallels between Korea and the US, who both registered their first COVID-19 case on January 20, or between Korea and Japan, who both received international praise for the way they managed to 'flatten the curve'.
 
Of course, as we speak, Korea seems to emerge as the clear winner in all parallels:
  •  Korea better trained and equipped, swifter than France:
    - After posting record numbers of new cases, Korea swiftly implemented containment measures around Daegu and the region, but also at the micro level, around each actual or suspected case, aggressively multiplying tests, treatments, and tracking with as much precision as possible. The population didn't need much pedagogy to put on face masks everybody's already used to wearing in case of flu or bad air quality. For starters, Korea also keeps remarkable track of most of its senior citizens and of their health, and boasts a greater and more modern ICU capacity.
    - France's health system, which was already imploding long before SARS-CoV2 showed up, is now literally choking. Not enough testing material, not enough face masks for a population anyway totally oblivious of their existence, not enough protection gear required for doctors and nurses coping with a pandemic... France even lacks the legal framework to track and monitor as acutely as in Korea, where all members of the cult could be tested: since the Occupation, databases featuring religion are illegal in France, and Korea's amazing(ly intrusive) apps tracking COVID-19 patients wouldn't pass the CNIL cut either. 
    - For a change, France is lagging behind Korea in terms of return on experience. It took us years to find out that the 2003 heatwave killed 20,000 people instead of the 3,500 initially thought, and only a few days ago was it made public that our COVID-19 statistics didn't include cases or fatalities outside of hospital systems. To start with, we can't even keep track of our senior citizens that stay all year round in their retirement homes. During the H5N1 crisis, the French government did create a stockpile of one billion masks, but the country was relatively spared by the virus, and a few years later this safety net was deemed unnecessary and abandoned. Korea took a hit during that crisis, and learned the lesson. The government didn't hesitate too long before containing Daegu while France waited until after the elections to take significant measures.
    
  • Science and facts first, 4Ts for Korea vs only 1T for the States:
    - To the most obvious 3 Ts (Testing, Tracking, Treating), Korea didn't forget to add the fourth one, Transparency. This time, the vaccine came from the Sewol tragedy: MOON Jae-in knows what happens to leaders who fail when their citizens' safety is at stake.
    - Unfortunately, this President Of The United States focused from the start on the only T he cares for: TRUMP. Because he thinks as usual that everything is all about him and his election, and that he can never fail, as usual he rejects science and facts, and everybody pays the price. How many lies, denials, delays? How many weeks wasted, how many lives lost forever? At best tens of thousands, because the US have at long last started to move, and once they do they can move mountains, but Trump's behaviors could well have cost hundreds of thousands of American lives.
     
    "If #Korea has the best protection mask against #AirPollution and #covid19,
    #USA had the best #protectionmask against #Science, facts, and #truth thanks to this #MAGA #Trump #mask:
    http://e-blogules.blogspot.com/2020/03/coronavirus-protect-yourself-100-from.html  @blogules" (@theseoulvillage - 20200309)
     
    "So #DonaldTrump wants to see full #churches on #Easter day. Well that's very easy to do. Even #Italy manages just that right now (see photo below). #COVID19US" (@stephanemot - 20200326)
  • Korea more decisive and transparent than Japan's government**: 
    - when most international media applauded Japan for its remarkably low number of COVID-19 cases and fatalities, only a few observers pointed out the fact that these numbers were not to be trusted, that very few people were tested, and that the government was responsible for many fatalities with its disastrous handling of the outbreak on board of the Princess Diamond cruise ship. Sadly, much more lives will be lost on the archipelago because Shinzo Abe and his team deliberately tried to hide the pandemic under the rug to save face, Tokyo 2020, and their own corrupt regime. The reason why figures were so good and the temperature didn't show? They deliberately got rid of the tests and the thermometer, treating cases as 'pneumonia', and refusing even to release statistics about pneumonia. For many, reality hit home only yesterday, when Dishonest Abe exposed his total lack of visibility and control:
    "After #Trump's #ITakeNoResponsibility, #ShinzoAbe's 'I-dont-have-a-clue-how-deep-I-dug-#Japan-In-but-in-a-fortnight-after-cases-have-multiplied-a-hundredfold-I-might-consider-declaring-a-state-of-emergency (scary quotes via @motokorich):" (@theseoulvillage - 20200328)
Of course, this is certainly not about countries competing against each other, but about mankind vs the invisible enemy, about humans vs their own failures.

Furthermore, Koreans already know how quickly and dramatically situations can evolve for the better and for the worse with this pandemic. And like everybody else, they are not out of the woods yet. Particularly with these recurring stories of churches holding services in spite of the ban, or this handshake-happy covidiot of a politician on the campaign trail:


"If #Korea govt locked up 'religious' leaders who persist in organizing mass 'services', prisons would be packed. Particularly their mass murderer sections." (Quote Tweet Raphael Rashid / @koryodynasty "This at the Yonsei Central Baptist Church today. I wonder how far spit particles can travel.") (20200329)
 
Frederic Ojardias / @fredojardias: "I just saw a campaigning politician (from the majority party) walking in a park in Seoul and shaking the hands of *every people* he met. Seriously, Korea. The #COVID crisis is not over. @moonriver365  @wonsoonpark Seoul Village / @theseoulvillage: "I'd #facepalm if touching one's own face weren't forbidden" (20200329)
So don't count on me to feed the ambient complacency. Or to complain about systematic screenings and tests upon arrival in the country.

One can only be impressed by the attention given to each and every one of us ever since we landed, from the welcome pack (masks, hand sanitizer, disinfectant, disposable thermometers, special trash bags...) to the daily calls from the district office, the neighborhood health center, and even the psychological support provided to anyone in need. Yes, during this quarantine, we're tracked by GPS, we have to report on two different self-quarantine apps every day (ministries of Health and Interior), we have to take our temperature twice a day for good measure, even if we tested negative to the coronavirus after arrival. But in too many countries, too many people would die for - and sadly too many people will die without - such attention.
"Free #protectionMasks, hand gel, disinfection spray, special trash bags for contaminated materials and instructions to handle them... dropped at your home. #Seoul welcomes you back in a country that copes seriously with #covid19." (20200326)
These days, Korea manages to maintain a significant level of economic activity, but that's a very delicate balancing act, and I'd settle for a trade-off where the economy is steadily running at around 85%, instead of 90% for the first week, but 70% afterwards. If we want most restaurants to remain open much longer, maybe limiting their activity (e.g. to take out) could make that more likely.

Avoiding complacency and relapses should be consistent at all levels. And if MOON Jae-in is enjoying a well deserved boost in the polls because of the way he handled the outbreak, that shouldn't be a green light for bringing back such rotten apples as CHO Kuk or SOHN Hye-won.

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* see this 20200328 tweet:


** as usual I make clear differences between Japan, Imperial Japan, and the politicians that are now ruining this great nation, betraying this great people.

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