South Korea shows capitalism has money to respond to coronavirus

(Photo: Creative Commons)

South Korea has been held up as a model by some commentators for its containment of coronavirus. It’s far from perfect, but a rapid supply of resources shows that the capitalists do have the money – if the state intervenes. An English teacher in Ulsan spoke to the Socialist (weekly paper of The Socialist – CWI England & Wales).

Korea has been pretty good. Local councils are giving money to low earners to help with rent. Anyone who needs to get the test and potential treatment receive it free. And if you have to self-quarantine I think the government sends out a care package, food and so on.

All teachers in the public school system – Korean and foreign – are off work until 23 March, but are receiving full pay. They are being required to do lesson planning, and perhaps some other work from home to varying levels.

Private is a little more complicated. I can tell you that I, at least, am only working afternoons right now, on full pay. No kids at the school, but we are doing phone lessons. Various friends in other private schools are at home till the 23rd – with no work, or doing a small number of video lessons – on 50% pay. I can’t tell you about other sectors.

The government has imposed a ban or something so that mask sellers (pharmacies and so on) cannot mark up the prices due to shortage. In fact, there is now an organised rationing system for them.

The tracking and containment procedures are quite meticulous. A little too much maybe. We get constant government messages on our phones tracking where patients have been, in case we’ve been in the same place at the same time.

I’ve got them all on my phone. I have the sound turned off, but it makes a siren noise and you have to click into it, you can’t just ignore it. I mean, it helps people to know if they were near an infected person I guess, but this is fuelling panic a bit.

Supposedly that system has exposed at least one affair. If private information has been dragged out because you caught a virus… whoops.

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