Kyu Min Huh on South Korea + COVID-19

I am in South Korea now. I actually should be in New Orleans, but delayed my flight to April 20th. I was going to be a part-time volunteer intern before getting a job, but got an email two days ago that New Orleans became another hotspot for covid-19. I really haven’t expected New Orleans to be so. I heard that the universities cancelled classes for this week and everything will go online for the rest of the semester, but still thought it was warm enough there to suppress virus. Apparently it doesn’t work that way. New Orleans is just not the city that I can imagine of people staying inside all day. However, here it is. I was going to have an affordable rent, but felt guilty to take the space when the students are kicked out from the dormitories and the people working from home need their spaces more than ever. Of course, going back to New Orleans with a recent outbreak without the public life, a health insurance, nor job, was scary.

These past three weeks really have been a whirlwind, and it seems like it’s gonna continue to be so. Just about three weeks ago, around Mardi Gras time in New Orleans, covid-19 cases in S. Korea was skyrocketing. Once there were over 900 new cases in S. Korea in one day, and every morning, I checked the numbers worrying the door to U.S. would shut down on me. I had this complex sentiment feeling lonely while all my friends were having fun during Mardi Gras, but also happy to see the joyful, colorful photos untouched by the then-epidemic, now-pandemic. I rather miss that time I naively believed that New Orleans was a safe haven, even from the virus. The table has turned and now I chose not to go to the States even when I could, as the daily cases in S.Korea decreased below 100, but the outbreak is just beginning everywhere else. The table is turning all the time though and I really don’t know if I will be able to get anywhere by the April 20th. I am going to apply to as many field jobs as I see, but would anyone dare to hire a South Korean over as a bird technician in this tumultuous time?

It is heartbreaking to think of all that jazz, classical, folk, punk, fusion, and many other music bands I haven’t yet listened to go silent for a few weeks in New Orleans, and places like Angelo Brocato’s, Mandina’s, 1000 Figs, Lebanon’s Cafe, and Kin cutting hours and possibly closing for a while. What about all those baristas and regulars who were there all the time at the Rook, Zotz, Fair Grinds, Station, Church Alley, and La Rue de la Course?

Social distancing is easier here because I don’t have any neighborhood friends to bike over to and have only a few friends in Seoul after four years of studying abroad in U.S.. Even when I was living here I didn’t have a public life and only met with 1-3 friends at a time. So my personal life is not so different here. I do go to a private ballet class twice a week that was supposed to be a group class, and have papers to write and jobs to apply. Meanwhile the sky looks bluer than ever and I see the flowers blooming from my home in years. Spring is arriving. I am also ever more so grateful for the universal healthcare and the enormous amount of free testing here. My home turned from one of the most dangerous grounds into the safest place in a few weeks. Just two weeks ago, I was worrying if people didn’t hire me thinking I was contagious. Now hopefully they can see that I am cultured and clean!

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.