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[Weekender] Handmade masks comfort marginalized people amid serious shortage

When Park Jin-ryoung, a Daegu resident, saw people waiting in line for hours to buy a face mask -- a must-have survival item in the city, which accounts for nearly 70 percent of COVID-19 cases in South Korea -- her thoughts went to people in need.

So she took out her sewing machine. She visited offline and online stores to buy the materials she needed to make 120 fabric face masks: elastic braids, wire cords, filters and fabric.

Park and her two daughters -- whose elementary school graduation ceremony was canceled due to the virus outbreak, and who couldn’t start middle school on time -- ironed and sewed fabric. While Park’s cousin cut the fabric, her husband helped cut more than 500 filters. 

Park Jin-ryoung’s daughter Yoo-jin helps her make face masks at home on a sewing machine. (Provided by Park Jin-ryoung)
Park Jin-ryoung’s daughter Yoo-jin helps her make face masks at home on a sewing machine. (Provided by Park Jin-ryoung)

"I handed 55 face masks to the multicultural center in Daegu after I heard from an acquaintance that few children from low-income multicultural families have a face mask,” Park said. “Some of them who do not have Korean citizenship were neglected by the government.”

“When I visited the center, the 55 face masks we made were not enough, so I decided to make 50 additional fabric face masks for multicultural families. Our family is working on it now,” Park said.

Park is not alone in coming forward to help people amid the shortage of face masks across the country. Although the government began rationing masks on Monday to resolve the shortage, public anger is still rising in the country, where more than 7,000 people have been infected.

Moon Do-kyung, a 42-year-old designer who runs a lighting business in Yeoju, Gyeonggi Province, uploaded a video on her YouTube channel showing how to make fabric face masks with a variety of designs in the hope of helping people who needed them.

“I felt depressed watching people waiting in line to get a mask on TV, so I made up my mind to spend my free time making face masks and uploading a video that demonstrates how to make one for themselves,” Moon said.
 
Designer Moon Do-kyung made 60 fabric face masks and uploaded a video on her YouTube channel demonstrating how to make one. (Provided by Moon Do-kyung’s blog “VAYU graph”)
Designer Moon Do-kyung made 60 fabric face masks and uploaded a video on her YouTube channel demonstrating how to make one. (Provided by Moon Do-kyung’s blog “VAYU graph”)

She sent 60 face masks to people who had left comments on her video indicating that they needed masks.

“Those who received hand-made face masks said they felt warmth, as if they’d received a gift and care in gloomy days,” Moon said. “I also feel happy and good about myself when I help others.”

Some community centers and volunteer groups across the country are joining hands to help resolve the face mask shortage and help marginalized people. The Yongin Volunteer Center in Gyeonggi Province is one of them.

The volunteer center has gathered 38 volunteers as of Thursday. Starting Friday, they will make fabric face masks for road sweepers in the city.

“It took some time to get the materials because many online and offline stores ran out of stock due to the rising demand from people like us. We had to wait more than a week to secure adequate supplies,” said Jun Kil-soon, an official from the Yongin Volunteer Center. “We are aiming to give handmade fabric face masks to those who are on the margins and failed to receive masks from the city government.”


By Park Yuna (yunapark@heraldcorp.com)
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