South Korea's Example, or Choose Not to Be Selfish

Image result for south korea

I had developed a model to estimate the global and US death burdens from COVID-19 and wrote about it on March 13th. I had used the data from South Korea to develop my best case scenario at that time. In that model, in the US would have 506,896 deaths and globally we could expect 11,844,853. I had mid-range and high estimates too based on how close we were to the actions of other countries.

Unfortunately, I never really thought we would get by that easily for a number of reasons. My friend Bob Bierman wrote a piece today that addressed those societal issues far better than I could so I asked him if I could have permission to share here. Graciously, he agreed.

“To the US, a mere 60 years ago, the Republic of Korea (South Korea) was little more than a scarred up battlefield where the west had fought a proxy war against the Soviet Union.

It was a time of starvation for the country, with North Korea’s leader, Kim Il Sung (Kim Jung Un’s grandpappy) looking like an economic genius as his citizens enjoyed a higher standard of living than the South.

In 1963, Park Chung-hee, the military ruler of South Korea instituted a program of industrial reform.

In 1979, Park was assassinated after seven years of near-dictator status following a series of constitutional changes.

It wasn’t until 1986 (with a new constitution adopted in the meantime) that the constitution was amended to allow for direct election of the prime minister.

During the 1997/98 Asian financial crisis, South Korea was on the verge of economic collapse. Citizens stood in long lines, waiting for hours … not for food … but rather to donate gold to the government to help keep the country solvent, independent, democratic.

They impeached their prime minister in 2017 over a bizarre corruption scandal.

By the way, Inchon Airport didn’t open til 2001.

Today, South Korea, population +/-52M, land mass 1/99th the size of the US, is the 12th largest economy in the world. 81.5% of the population is on the Internet.

We watch shows born in Korea (Masked Singer!), use Korean high tech products (Samsung, LG), drive Korean cars (Hyundai, Kia), cheer for Korean music (Psy; BTS – or I can suggest a few actually good bands, if you like), increasingly, eat Korean food.

This is the country that dealt with the Corona virus quickly. Immediately implementing testing. Educating the public. Facing the pain quickly, completely and – from the looks of it – getting it over with fast so life can go on.

Without sheltering in place. Or martial law.

They immediately began testing. At a rate of 10,000 per day. They cared for the sick to the extent they could be cared for. They mobilized every resource of the nation, whether real estate for public health centers or public funds to implement their plan.

My 300M American brothers and sisters, as you gripe about your freedoms being taken away, whine about inconvenience … dwell on conspiracy theories about this virus, accuse the entire world – from China to Italy to South Korea of conspiring to destroy the global economy, bring the world to a halt and sicken thousands, simply to make the US president lose an election … flaunt how ruggedly-individual you are by defying the advice of public health specialists, consider this —

There are people in South Korea who still remember the dark days before democracy was a way of life, who remember starvation, who value and cherish democracy and enjoy economic prosperity.

They sacrifice when needed for the greater good.

They are your example.

Sure. The young there are farther from the level of commitment the older generation possesses, but still far more committed to their shared society than the best of us.

Too many of us have forgotten, never understood or just plain don’t care about our neighbors to act like children of the same nation.

Yet somehow we call that patriotism.”

I have to add a postscript. What exactly does it look like when you are selfish and don’t give a damn if you kill other people? Well, it’s something like this.

Leave a Reply