Sun Young Park, Associate Professor, Korea National Sports University
The COVID-19 pandemic has changed our normal lives completely and pushed us into a never-experienced, strange world. The South Korean Government strongly urged citizens’ cooperation such as social distancing, self-quarantine and keeping strict individual hygiene in mid-January 2020. Furthermore, the Government started tracking all of those who have suspicious symptoms and tried to find out the route or cluster of the virus, in order to stop the wider spread. Clearly, these are controversial issues on the violation of individuals’ privacy versus the right to survive, or public’s safety and protection for others. Nevertheless, most of Korean citizens willingly followed Government procedures, because they thought it was an emergency like a war. In fact, there is no such serious discussion on the violation of individuals’ privacy in the Korean society. Rather, Koreans, including me, feel protected and thankful for the efficient and advanced medical care system and the sacrifices from the medics in South Korea.
Normally, the month of March is a symbol of things ‘fresh’, a beginning of new life, in South Korea, due to the new academic year starting in March. If there was no COVID-19 pandemic, the Korea National Sports University Campus would be full of students, noises and various welcoming events for the newcomers. Sometimes, they used to drive me crazy, however, I have come to realise just how much I miss such a mess and busyness on the Campus!
Even though the fear of Coronavirus has been spread in South Korean society earlier than in the Western society, the academic calendar couldn’t stop. Otherwise we will have faced another kind of panic and confusion in our education system. After careful consideration, the Ministry of Education postponed this new academic term and introduced online lectures (nobody knows for how long yet) in all levels of schooling. For the first time in Korean history, it seems like we are standing on inflection point of the world history, with uncertainty. Social distancing and quarantine are very far away from Korean traditional culture and these new phenomena stopped the fellowships, relationships and ordinary lives. A new university term has just started last week in an abnormal way, no commencement ceremony, no induction seminars… Fortunately, highly advanced technology and IT provision enable us to provide real time online lectures without serious problems, but both students and professors confess that we are not fully aware of, or prepared for, the fourth industrial revolution, in terms of attitudes and emotions.
Through suffering from the Coronavirus pandemic, we have started to cherish ‘being there for someone else’ and express gratitude for community solidarity, cooperation, respect for others and responsibilities for the world. These are crucial components of citizenship and difficult to teach or educate to younger generations. It was, and still is, hard, to get back to the usual lifestyle, in the midst of COVID-19 fears, but we have learnt the importance of global citizenship, interdependence, and responsibilities for each other. I believe that the pandemic has taught us to think about what is important more than human value and dignity in times of troubles. What are common values and ethics that we have to keep and pass over to next generations? We are living in a rapidly and unexpectedly changing stage; anything can happen in the future; anything can threaten humanity. Therefore, it’s time to help young generations to put priority first on ‘human dignity’ and live together in one world.