Global Changes Caused by COVID-19
In 2020, we entered a new world with COVID-19. Of course, some experts warned of the situation in advance, but most citizens did not even imagine it. Dramatic changes through infectious diseases have created new terms such as "BC" and "AC" (Before Corona, After Corona). To that extent, the world before and after COVID-19 will be completely different, and it cannot be completely returned to the previous world. The biggest difference is the change in order that the existing world has built up for a long time. The worrisome part is that the internal solidarity between the national community and the majority will become stronger under the pretext of safety and quarantine, the exclusion and discrimination of the socially disadvantaged will intensify, and the gap between the rich and poor will worsen. Already, there have been cases in some countries that use the crisis as an excuse to limit citizens' rights and freedoms by strengthening power abuse, dictatorship, and more than necessary state control. In addition, racism is further strengthened everywhere and citizens and non-citizens are treated differently. The coercion of discipline made of dichotomous black-and-white logic believes that diversity can be suppressed.
COVID-19 and South Korea
Korea's COVID-19 quarantine measures have received worldwide attention, and major media outlets have rushed to report. It has been a long time since the miracle of the Han River that Korea has been praised by the world's media for such a short period of time. It is said that the driving force behind this achievement in Korean society is transparent information disclosure, democratic operation, and voluntary citizenship. However, there is something we should not miss even in the midst of a positive gaze. Whether the state and social majority try to excessively infringe on individual rights and freedoms and strengthen a uniform social order under the pretext of quarantine, or whether harsher hatred and discrimination against the socially disadvantaged occur in crisis situations. This issue should be more sensitive to Korean society. This is because Korea already has a painful past that guarantees economic development by taking the harsh sacrifices of the socially disadvantaged for granted in the process of achieving compressed industrialization. Korean society today, no. The value of human rights and diversity is not created for a moment or given free of charge by someone. It is a precious product that has been accumulated after many sacrifices for a long time.
Discrimination and Prejudice Revealed to the Surface in the Pandemic Crisis
So, what kind of harmony can we achieve in the post-COVID-19 world between the guarantee of individual human rights, freedom, and cultural diversity, as well as the new appropriate control and order needed for the safety of the majority in post-COVID-19 change? Korea has achieved results in preventing the spread of infectious diseases by quickly and in detail disclosing the movement of confirmed patients. However, unnecessary information or the privacy of confirmed patients are exposed, and speculation and fake news are causing side effects that cause social and emotional damage to the extent that it is difficult for some confirmed patients to return to society. There have also been criticisms of spreading infectious diseases throughout certain areas. In addition, individual hydrophobicity regardless of infectious diseases is treated as if it is part of the characteristics of spreading infectious diseases.
As seen in reports of community infections centered on clubs in Itaewon, some media outlets reported provocatively, focusing on the sexuality of club visitors rather than on the fact-finding report. It rather strengthens discrimination and disgust in the crisis faced by the world, and also strengthens prejudice, as if some of the causes of the crisis lie in certain social hydrophobicity. If it were not for the current structure in which various expressions of identity are shown, there would be no reason to hide one's identity even in crisis situations. Is respecting various identities inconsistent with quarantine and multiple safety? No. Rather, for the sake of a large number of safety, the hydrophobicity of individuals must be protected and expressed freely.
In addition, you can get a glimpse of the difficult life of the more vulnerable low-income class in the movement of confirmed patients. You have to run two jobs from dawn to night, and you move without a break for a day or a moment. What we need to read in the path of confirmed patients is social inequality beyond the inequality of the health rights of the socially disadvantaged and minorities. In a society where non-face-to-face has become a virtue and obligation, such as "pause for a while," "social distancing," and "resting for a while if you are sick," we should see our neighbors' tiring daily lives that cannot be stopped for a moment. Moreover, we are already finding that the damage caused by COVID-19 is inefficiently concentrated. No, maybe I already knew it, but I was trying to ignore it and be silent. Historically, there are things that have been done every time a crisis comes. Groups that were visibly well distinguished, unable to represent themselves well, and not recognized for their hydrophobicity have been easily sacrificed by the majority. There are countless cases, and the perpetrators and victims are not always set.
In the 1923 Great Tokyo Earthquake in Japan, numerous Koreans were innocent victims of false information that poison was released and set on fire in the well. In 1931, in the case of Manbosan Mountain, Koreans slaughtered about 200 Chinese people living in Joseon society at the time based on misinformation by the Japanese colonial government. In the recent Corona crisis, racism against Asians, including Chinese, has intensified around the world, and on the contrary, in China, African people are making extreme discrimination, saying that they are carrying infectious diseases. In the case of Western European society, racism is showing even more pronounced results. According to the British Statistical Office (ONS), the death toll from COVID-19 in the UK was four times higher than that of whites, and the United States was more than three times higher. The gap between rich and poor is also worsening. Unemployment has soared around the world, but the income of the top 1% of wealthy people is said to have increased significantly. Korea is also being hit harder, with the economically weak collapsing their lives.
In order to protect social security in an unbalanced world, sometimes it is inevitable to limit the sacrifices of the socially disadvantaged or some of their rights, and there are people who say that protecting everyone is an impossible fantasy. However, if you understand the nature that no one can be safe until everyone is safe in the midst of an epidemic crisis, you should realize that protecting the safety of the majority at the expense of the few is an "impossible fantasy that is not sustainable." The crisis continues to come. The economic crisis that continues to repeat every 10 years, the infectious disease crisis that comes in increasingly short cycles, and various natural disasters will constantly put humanity in crisis. The quarantine authorities are said to have prepared for this crisis based on their experiences in MERS and SARS. What we need to learn from this crisis is not a temporary overcoming of the COVID-19 pandemic crisis, but a lesson in a world of sustainable equal and peaceful coexistence.
So how should we act?
Am I going to be relieved that I have not been sacrificed in this crisis and pretend not to know the sacrifices of other socially disadvantaged people? Will they strive to survive the next crisis, to compete more fiercely and raise their socioeconomic status? Or should we only maintain and strengthen our identity as a majority and live by deceiving ourselves so that we are not excluded and abandoned? Or will I create a safe world where the social hydrophobicity I have, or we all have depending on our location and environment, is fully tolerated by everyone in itself, and where no one is abandoned or discriminated against in a crisis? If I wait for my turn without change, in an infinite competitive society, eventually everyone becomes a loser and one day is abandoned. In order to end the game where everyone becomes a victim and everyone becomes a winner, we must engage in inclusion, communication, and respect for human rights and diversity. There is no safe world to hate someone and create sides.