Between September of 1918 and April of 1920, the notorious “Spanish Flu”, or H1N1 influenza A virus, raged across the globe, killing over 50 million people and infecting nearly 500 million. The Philadelphia decided not to cancel the Liberty Loan Parade, a promotional patriotic parade scheduled for September 28th , despite the ongoing pandemic.. On the day of the parade, 200,000 people poured into Broad Street, cheering and celebrating shoulder to shoulder in large crowds. As a result, the cases in Philadelphia nearly doubled in the span of a week.
Though we’d assume we would learn from our historical mistakes, these unfortunate events have promptly repeated themselves with the unfolding of the COVID-19 outbreak. With skeptical anti-maskers, restless party-goers, and an inadequate government response, the cases in the US have skyrocketed.
South Korea has been able to avoid the tragic situation of the US with a swift and efficient response from the leading health officials. However,with the reopening of schools and several businesses came a sudden upturn of COVID-19 cases. Experts suspect certain church groups who have shown resistance against COVID-19 prevention requirements and have continued to meet in groups that exceed attendance restrictions enforced by the government. Much to the dismay of students and faculty, schools have shut down and resumed online learning. A number of shops that have suffered from virus outbreaks have also closed their doors.
The Sarang Jeil Church is a right-wing religious group of Christians in South Korea. The group has become a huge topic of controversy with their members packing together in anti-government protests, and even going as far as to believe that the virus could potentially be a communist terrorist attack on their religious group. They claim that the South Korean president Moon Jae-In will turn South Korea into a communist country under his rule. Despite many of the members and even the Pastor, Jun Kwang-Hoon, testing positive for the virus, the members continued to rally in the streets, fueling the rapid ongoing spread of the virus.
Doesn’t this sound familiar?
Don’t the baseless claims of the anti-government Sarang Jeil Church group resemble the baseless claims of many anti-government US citizens? Haven’t the reasonless anti-maskers also fallen victim to the ailment of misinformation and corrupt media? According to Han Hwan-ho, a member of the Sarang Jeil Church, members rushed to unite with their fellow members in order to “to defend [their] country’s alliance with the United States and our freedom of religion”. Similar themes of freedom have surfaced in the United States with anti-maskers claiming that coronavirus safety measures are an infringement upon their personal rights. Protests by anti-maskers in the US, who rally without their masks and ignore social distancing, have contributed greatly to case spikes in several states. Similarly, gatherings of church members who ignore safety measures in Korea have also caused a sizable portion of increases in COVID-19 cases. These are the times in which listening to government authority is critical in preventing the spread of the virus, and citizen must protect each other by following safety guidelines.
These unfortunate instances of ignorance and mistrust amongst anti-government protesters shine a bright light on the underlying social problems in both the US and South Korea as well as a multitude of other countries. Fake news and leaders who encourage irresponsible and illogical behaviour or beliefs have been shown to undermine attempts to mitigate coronavirus cases and have ultimately cost the world thousands of lives. Perhaps South Korea and the United States have more in common than we thought.
-Michelle Lee (22′)
Featured Image: Ed Jones/Agence France-Presse/Getty Images