Volunteers prepare packaged meals for those working on the front lines of the coronavirus fight, including hospitals and testing sites, in Gyeongsan, North Gyeongsang Province, March 8. (Yonhap)
The novel coronavirus outbreak has heightened anxiety in South Korea and around the globe in a period unlike any the modern society has experienced before.
Despite continued uncertainty and bad apples with xenophobic behavior, good Samaritans in Korea are going an extra mile to look out for those most vulnerable to contracting the disease with medical staff combating the virus on the front lines.
Lee Jun-ah, 22, a senior at Seoul Women’s College of Nursing, is volunteering from home, making face masks to be delivered to those in need of the protective gear via Anyang City Hall.
“I have watched developments on the coronavirus closely because I’m a student at Seoul Women’s College of Nursing. … I signed up as a volunteer to be of help in this situation.” Lee told The Korea Herald.
“Frankly I didn’t have the courage to lend a helping hand in Daegu unlike many nurses who are down there working tirelessly forgoing sleep and meals. But I found a few online posts looking for volunteers, so I signed up.”
Since starting volunteer work last week Lee has made 80 masks as of Thursday while taking online classes for school.
Some 140 countries around the globe have reported a combined 306,939 infected people and 13,032 deaths as of Sunday.
The unexpected contagion is taking a bite out of businesses of all market sizes and the financial market.
In hard-hit Daegu the deadly contagion has shuttered some businesses due to a drop in customer demand.
Nam Ho-sang, 44, runs a restaurant chain Tonkatsu Club in Dalseong-gun, Daegu and is one of many proprietors who recently closed his business for a week.
Since the outbreak Nam’s business has crippled with a steep decline in sales of over 90 percent, forcing Nam to lay off roughly 80 percent of part-time workers and move permanent employees to shortened work hours.
The turbulent times, however, has not held Nam from sharing 100 lunch boxes with medical staff at Keimyung University Daegu Dongsan Hospital, a government-designated hospital to treat COVID-19 patients, on March 14 as a “small token of appreciation.”
“At one point we had to close our business for a week. But after watching a documentary about medical staff and paramedic from all parts of the country coming to help Daegu, I felt an urge to do something for them,” Nam said in a phone interview.
“It must not have been easy for them to come here like firefighters jumping into burning fire that everyone else is avoiding. Compared to them, we have provided small support.”
Amidst the general public observing “social-distancing,” good Samaritan Kim Byung-lok’s generous donation of his life-long savings has created a sense of community, deeply moving observers.
Kim, 61, reportedly contributed 33,000 square meters of land worth some 700 million won he had amassed working as a cobbler for 50 years to Paju City for it to be used for people most affected by COVID-19, such as day workers.
He initially had hoped to build a facility for those with Down’s syndrome, like his 27-year-old youngest son.
“(My wife) was not pleased. (She said) It feels like I have given away one of my arms, it was hard earned savings,” Kim said in an interview with local media.
“It was not an easy decision, (in fact) I could not sleep for a few days. But I am more glad that my kids can be proud of me.”
By Kim Bo-gyung (firstname.lastname@example.org