Dhaka, Bangladesh
Battle against virus

Battle against virus

Writes Chang H. Kim

One day, I took the subway to work. I was lucky to sit down. The person sitting next to me coughed and sneezed while, unperturbed, I checked my email via my smartphone. That was me just a month ago, but if this had happened on my way to work today, could I continue to focus on my phone? Thanks to the novel coronavirus that originated in Wuhan, China, all of us in 2020 are becoming very sensitive to one another's bodily functions. Dry coughing in public is enough to catch people's attention. Armed with a weapon called the "mask," people are wary of everyone else. It's a battle against invisible viruses. It's human nature to want to maintain a healthy life for as long as possible and I am no different from them. For me, a mask is a minimal measure to take to protect myself. Even with a mask, however, there are people who are not easily accepted by society. There are hundreds of Koreans who were trapped in Wuhan and returned home a few days ago. The government decided to quarantine these people in Jincheon and Asan, respectively. However, Jincheon and Asan citizens took collective action, fiercely protesting the government decision. Nothing was more important to them than their fear of the coronavirus. Indeed, it's been a long time since I've seen NIMBY (not in my backyard), but this is not unfamiliar. In the past, we have witnessed multiple forms of NIMBY, which have varied according to government policy. At that time, the facilities opposed by local residents ranged from incineration plants to elderly care facilities. On the other hand, locals have been pretty favorable to the establishment of new universities and shopping malls. They invited public forums and press conferences to actively argue why such facilities were needed in their regions. Their stance in conveying such a message was very different from that of Jincheon and Asan residents. They were displaying the YIMBY (yes, in my backyard) or perhaps even the PIMBY (please in my backyard) phenomenon. One common notion that penetrates NIMBY, YIMBY and PIMBY is human selfishness. All of us are prone to the temptation to seek profit. Although there may be differences in the degree to which we do this, it is difficult for us to deny the proposition that we live for survival. Those who cleverly grasp such human nature and use capitalism "correctly" always emerge at times like this. In recent weeks, the price of masks in the online market has soared two to three times compared to what they were a month ago. As the demand for minimum "arms" for families increases, this price spike will continue for some time. The uncertainty of how much longer we will have to fight the novel coronavirus increases the likelihood of human selfishness becoming apparent. If the number of confirmed patients increases, people will be warier of one another. The government may face conflicts between locals. As the general election nears, there will be a political party using the NIMBY phenomenon to incite conflict. Businesses that exploit the fears of the people to take advantage of the price of arms needed for battle will flourish. YouTubers who want to increase subscribers through fake news and pranks will also be on the rise. All this selfishness will contribute to lowering our odds in the battle against the novel coronavirus. We have been living within this landscape since the first month of the new decade. Everyone started 2020 with a pledge of hope, but unfortunately today the world currently revolves around the novel coronavirus. Even so, we are all imperfect beings to blindly criticize the NIMBY phenomenon. That the year 2020 has begun with this naked and vulgar human nature makes me sad. But what gives me a little comfort is that Jincheon and Asan residents finally changed their stance, showing favor for the government's decision and welcoming those returning from China. This case is a good example of how to overcome the NIMBY problem and reach a social consensus on thorny issues. If there is another glimmer of hope, it is that we all have the common goal of survival. In times like this, a more mature national consciousness and corresponding government leadership are needed. I hope that the day we come together and win this battle with a mature mindset and attitude will come as soon as possible.

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