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Why My Father Fled Seoul´s Lockdown

Turning Point: In February, Daegu, South Korea, became the site of the first major coronavirus outbreak outside China.

My father felt marooned.

He had done manual labor his whole life, working in construction. At 70, he became a security guard. Then, when he was too old to work, he passed the time at a city-run senior center. He played janggi with other men, read at the public library and took walks in a neighborhood park. But with the outbreak of Covid-19, facilities closed in unison, taking with them every avenue of socialization. My father was forced to spend the winter confined to the small room he’d been living in for 20 years in his son and daughter-in-law’s home in Seoul, reduced to few words and fewer square feet.…  Seguir leyendo »

Aprender de Corea del Sur

Con 50 millones de habitantes, casi como España, Corea del Sur ha tenido hasta ahora unos 25.000 contagios por Covid-19 y alrededor de 400 muertos hasta finales de octubre. Al ser este país una democracia y una sociedad abierta, esas cifras son fiables y se pueden comparar con las de regímenes similares como Estados Unidos o Francia. Además, Corea del Sur es un país urbanizado, pues el 80 por ciento de su población vive en grandes ciudades, y su clima es similar al de Europa o Norteamérica. ¿Cómo se puede explicar la espectacular diferencia entre Corea del Sur, Europa y EE.UU.?…  Seguir leyendo »

Durante una pandemia se pone en evidencia más que nunca la importancia de contar con un sistema de salud confiable y ampliamente accesible. Hoy en día ha quedado dolorosamente claro que los países no pueden ir tras el logro del desarrollo económico y, a su vez, asumir que el sistema de salud se desarrollará de manera paralela. En cambio, deben hacer lo que hizo Corea del Sur: concebir estrategias específicas para una prestación eficaz de servicios de salud que vayan de la mano con esfuerzos más amplios de desarrollo social y económico.

A lo largo de la última década, la moderna y robusta infraestructura sanitaria de Corea del Sur ha permitido que este país enfrente múltiples e importantes crisis sanitarias.…  Seguir leyendo »

A diagram from the CDC site shows the floor plan of the 11th floor of a building in Seoul, South Korea, that was the site of a coronavirus disease outbreak in 2020. The blue shading shows the seating locations of people who became infected.

The most complicated issue in America right now is how, when and where to reopen the cities and towns that have been sheltered in place. Everyone wants resumption of the mobile life of social proximity we enjoyed a few months ago but balancing this against the competing need to assure both individual safety and -- because this is a contagious disease -- societal safety remains a substantial challenge.

Fortunately, a new study from South Korea has just been published in "early release" form (it is final and peer-reviewed, just early) in the CDC medical journal, Emerging Infectious Disease.

Titled "Coronavirus Disease Outbreak in Call Center, South Korea," it describes how South Korea dealt with an outbreak in a high-rise building in the busiest part of Seoul with an early, decisive intervention that included closing the entire building, extensive testing and quarantine of infected people and their contacts.…  Seguir leyendo »

Election officials work at a ballot counting station in Seoul on Wednesday. (Kim Hee-Chul/EPA-EFE/REX/Shutterstock)

South Korea’s legislative elections, held Wednesday, would not normally attract much attention in the United States outside of the foreign policy community. But this year might be different. The plucky South Koreans have just shown the world how to hold an election and protect public health simultaneously.

Covid-19 hit South Korea in early February. The number of cases rose rapidly, climbing to nearly 1,000 new cases per day by the end of the month. Despite this, there was never any plan to postpone the April 15 election. Instead, the nation focused on making in-person voting safe.

The system the South Koreans devised protects voters and poll workers.…  Seguir leyendo »

South Korea, the US and the UK all reported their first Covid-19 cases around the same time: on January 20, January 21, and January 31, respectively. How things unfolded from there, unfortunately for the US and UK, has been strikingly different.

Today, South Korea is reporting less than 100 new cases a day, the UK is reporting around 4,000 new cases a day, and the US is reporting around 30,000. But while numbers in South Korea have fallen, in the US and UK they have been rising exponentially (around 20,000 new cases a day a week ago, about 8,000 new cases a day a week before that).…  Seguir leyendo »

El coronavirus se desató en Corea del Sur a finales de enero, cuando Yoo Yoon-sook cumplía seis meses en su nuevo trabajo. Ella se acababa de mudar de Seúl, donde pasó tres décadas trabajando en la misma farmacia, para abrir la Farmacia Hankyeol (“confiable”) en la ciudad de Incheon, cerca del aeropuerto internacional. Yoo aún no conocía bien el vecindario que rodeaba su nueva farmacia “antes de que todo esto ocurriera”, me dijo. Todo se centraba en el coronavirus, todo el tiempo.

Las 1100 farmacias de Incheon, incluida la de Yoo, comenzaron a vender las mascarillas KF-94, equivalentes a las N95 estadounidenses, hasta que se agotaron.…  Seguir leyendo »

Una calle en Seúl, Corea del Sur. Aunque al principio estuvieron escasas, las mascarillas estuvieron más disponibles luego de que el gobierno compró una proporción sustancial de la producción nacional.Credit...Ed Jones/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

The coronavirus erupted in South Korea in late January, six months into Yoo Yoon-sook’s new job. She had just moved from Seoul, where she spent three decades working in the same pharmacy, to open the Hankyeol (“Steadfast”) Pharmacy in the city of Incheon, near the international airport. Ms. Yoo hadn’t really gotten a sense of the neighborhood around her new pharmacy “before this all happened,” she told me. It became all coronavirus, all the time.

Incheon’s 1,100 pharmacies, including Ms. Yoo’s, began to sell out of KF-94 face masks, the equivalent of the American N95. So did corner stores and large retail chains like E-Mart.…  Seguir leyendo »

Corea del Sur ha conseguido controlar la pandemia de coronavirus en un tiempo récord de solo una semana gracias al diagnóstico masivo de su población. Parte de la estrategia ha consistido en distribuir una aplicación para móviles en la que, aportando los datos personales (domicilio, edad, sexo y teléfono o correo electrónico de contacto), se gestionaba la información sobre la enfermedad.

En caso de que el diagnóstico fuese positivo, al usuario se le ofrecía una cita para realizar el test. La prueba se llevaba a cabo en un punto de encuentro al que el usuario se desplazaba en coche, y donde los sanitarios hacían el test sin necesidad de salir del vehículo, de forma rápida y bastante segura.…  Seguir leyendo »

Workers from a building where 46 people were confirmed to have the coronavirus wait in line for testing at a temporary facility in Seoul on Monday. (Jung Yeon-je/AFP via Getty Images)

Some commentators are arguing that China’s coronavirus response attests to the superiority of its authoritarian brand of governance and crisis management. In reality, it turns out that democracies are better suited to protect public health — at least, when they take advantage of their inherent strengths. One country is showing how it’s done: South Korea.

“The advantages of the Chinese system have once again been demonstrated,” the Chinese Communist Party’s flagship paper said in a recent commentary — one that was approvingly quoted in the Wall Street Journal: “China’s battle against the epidemic showed that the CPC, as China’s ruling party, is by far the political party with the strongest governance capability in human history.”…  Seguir leyendo »