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Update: 62 days in! South Korea during COVID-19

It’s no secret that South Korea has handled this spectacularly. The way they implemented their recent elections was praised around the world. I’m in an incredibly safe country and if you want to do more research on that fact, feel free to do so. This post is to give a simple insight into how us expats are coping being far from home during this pandemic. I’ve received a lot more questions from my Instagram page and I will include those in this post. My school has been closed for two months, but we’ve been dealing with COVID-19 since late January. It’s been a long year so far and figuring this all out in a foreign country has been scary at times, but I’m still grateful to have gone through it here in Korea. I feel well looked after.

Are you back at work?

I’m not but there are lots of teachers who are. To briefly explain, there are government schools (public) and then there are privately owned schools (Hagwons or academies) that follow their own rules. My school falls under government control so they have to comply with the shutdown. The government advises private schools but they don’t have to comply therefore, most are open to avoid bankruptcy! My sister has been back for two weeks because she is at an academy. On Sunday (April 19th), the government announced they were slowly relaxing social distancing and it seems we may be going back in May. Here’ hoping.

How can you be getting paid when you’re not working?

Ask my boss. Last month it was 70% of my salary and this month… we’ll see! I’ve mentioned this before, but we get paid handsomely and can put away a lot of money every month. I’m in a privileged position where I can live off a reduced salary pretty comfortably. Government schools are getting payouts from the government so I’m assuming that’s where my salary is coming from but like I said – ask my boss. I don’t know the answers but I am eternally grateful that I don’t have to dip into my savings.

How are you allowed outside? Isn’t that spreading the virus?

South Korea has never been in lockdown and has still managed to flatten the curve. The only city they locked down was Daegu because of the large numbers of infected citizens and lockdown has since been lifted. In South Korea, the people listen to the instructions given out by the government (for the most part) and that’s how they have avoided the spread of the virus. The leading COVID-19 expert here, Professor Woo-Joo Kim, has made many statements regarding what people can and cannot do. He has encouraged hiking and being outside whilst maintaining social distancing. I’m currently sitting in Starbucks and they’ve rearranged the entire café to accommodate the government’s regulations. The government has tried its hardest to allow Koreans and us expats to retain a level of normalcy during this time. It’s paid off as the social distancing is slowly being withdrawn.

Why are you wearing a mask – shouldn’t you be giving them to healthcare workers?

There has never been a mask shortage here. They set up a system in a matter of days where citizens could go into pharmacies on specific days (they split them up depending on the year you were born) and get two masks for the week. That has even been made redundant because you can quite easily pick up masks in convenience stores again. We are very lucky.

Why don’t you send some of those masks to other countries that need them?

This is not allowed. Masks, hand sanitizers, and other in-demand items will most likely be stolen during transit and sold at an inflated amount. They have asked us not to and you can be fined if you do not comply. South Korea has already donated millions and will continue to do so.

When are you going home? Are you being repatriated?

I am no longer going home this year and my teaching practicals for my post-graduate certification will now be done next year. This is heartbreaking because my heart was set on graduating this year but me going home during the middle of this is risky and irresponsible. I wouldn’t be staying home long and would want to return to Korea after my practicals; it’s deemed as unnecessary travel and I agree. I am not opting to be flown out because I am an ‘at risk’ person and I don’t have medical aid (insurance) back home. South Korea has better medical facilities; I feel I am in safe hands and will be looked after here.

Does it feel like an apocalypse in South Korea?

Not at all. The parks are full with most people respecting the social distancing and everyone is wearing masks. Like I said before, South Korea has never gone into lockdown and most things have remained opened except for schools and now nightclubs. Really feeling the pinch on that last one because I’m such a party animal. LOLz.

How are YOU doing?

Honestly, some of these questions were not said with the best intentions but for the most part, my followers have been amazing. I always wake up with about a dozen DMs with people just checking in and for that I say: I am feeling OK because of the amazing humans I’ve managed to connect with. I recently shared my ‘meltdown’ over my postponed graduation on my stories and it was met with such a warm response. My message was to allow for emotional waves to pass through you and to feel what you’re feeling without suppressing them. This is NOT an easy time and your feelings are allowed to match that. Be kind to yourself and reach out when you’re feeling too overwhelmed.

High School Musical said it best:

“We’re all in this together.”

To the healthcare workers here in Korea and around the world, you are the real saviors during this time.

Love from,

Lamb xx

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