The irony of praising South Korea’s response to the coronavirus outbreak – Interview with Prof. George Baca: “This is still a surveillance state”

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In South Korea, the first coronavirus case was confirmed on the 20th of January, and the country already started lifting the lockdown, and measures taken against the novel coronavirus outbreak is being relaxed. Since mid-April, the so-called normalization process has been going on. Currently, there are 10.822 coronavirus cases in South Korea, and 256 people died because of the virus. 

South Korea has been praised for fighting against the coronavirus outbreak quite effectively. Professor George Baca from Dong-A University in Busan, South Korea was Özge Somlyai-Çakır’s guest to discuss the current situation in South Korea and the steps taken by the government since the pandemic started. 

“South Korea went from being the danger zone to being the safest place to be,” Professor Baca says, “Because the authorities and the biomedical companies were successful at taking action quickly and cooperating in fighting against the outbreak.” As Prof. Baca observes, for at least 5-6 weeks now, people have been “going back to normal” in South Korea. “The beaches are full of people, even some amusement parks were packed last week when many Koreans enjoyed the national holiday,” he adds.

Before the so-called normalization period, however, Prof. Baca emphasizes that almost 100% of the people in South Korea conform to the rules. “It is some kind of a social habit,” he says, the relationship between government and its people is still quite hierarchical. 

Prof. Baca finds it quite ironic to hear so-called social democrats in Western Europe or the democrats in the US praising South Korea for its success in fighting against the outbreak. “This is a surveillance state. Plus, for the past twenty years, social inequality has been growing in South Korea, the majority of the people have been struggling with enormous household debt, and the corporations dominating the economy here have so much profit that they are not creating new job opportunities” Prof. Baca says, and “Celebrating the South Korean response to the coronavirus pandemic leads to legitimizing these economic policies that increase social inequality,” he concludes.

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