MERS – Is it worrying me? How is it changing Korea?

Disclaimer: Originally posted on the SUNY New Paltz Study Abroad Student Blog Posts – a few edits may have been made.

Before continuing on: MERS stands for Middle East Respiratory Syndrome

First off, I was really annoyed about being constantly asked of this back at home from family members and friends. I can understand my parents and the people around me being worried about my wellbeing, but after a while, I felt the joy of coming back to this amazing country being stripped away slowly and slowly as the questions of MERS came about in my daily life.

I have to say, I am not happy about this outbreak, and many Koreans are also not. Many Korean Pop shows such as Inkigayo also had to reschedule and re-plan in order for people to not be in close contact with one another. Concerts have been canceled as well. A comedian/MC, Park Myungsoo (박명수), complained that this disease needs to be handled better by the government because there has been a decrease of tourists, and that things are not the way it used to be.

I talked about this with my friend that I am currently staying with to see what other Koreans have been doing and saying about this. According to her, maybe Koreans do not go out these days because of the disease.
In fact, when I went to MyeongDong (명동), a shopping district in Korea, my friend said that there would not be a lot of people – she was right. I went on a Friday, which means that there should be more people going out after school and after work, but there were not as many people compared to last year. I noticed that many people are wearing masks, while I was on the train heading to MyeongDong there was a lady going from train car to car selling masks. In the shopping places, mainly cosmetics, there were hand sanitizers with the label MERS so that people could be as germ free as possible.

Has MERS overall changed Korea? I would say to some extent, yes. But as a foreigner, I can’t tell much of the change. There has been a lot of hand sanitizers and signs about cleanness placed all over Korea, and I can tell they have been handling the situation well.

Now there is barely any news about MERS. People, especially Koreans, have passed by this happening as if nothing has happened. This outbreak reminds me of what happened in America with Ebola. I am glad that this has come to an end and that people are continuing to live their lives without fears.



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