SEOUL, South Korea, Sept. 1, 2020 /PRNewswire/ — UnPresidential.org reports that the recent medical protests in South Korea are the next in a long line of President Moon Jae In’s government failures to protect citizens. As coronavirus cases are once again in the hundreds per day, the government’s fingerprints are all over the latest outbreak and political unrest.
An August 15th anti-government rally attended by Sarang Jeil church members is often cast as the epicenter for the current outbreak, but it’s not just church-goers who are voicing discontent. Medical professionals recently went on strike to express their displeasure over the government’s plan to prepare for future public health crises: adding 4,000 medical students over the next 10 years. However, underpaid medical professionals claim that adding more would only serve to dilute the workforce. The money would be better spent raising wages and paying physicians to go to more remote locations outside of Seoul.
This is another clear example where the government’s plans to manage the coronavirus outbreak is misguided: it either goes too far, or not far enough. Back in February, the doctors warned to close the country’s borders, but the government chose not to do so, citing the importance of its relations with China. In this case, the government did not go far enough. On the other end of the spectrum, the government is currently dictating rules and policies for medical professionals that the professionals themselves believe are harming the relief effort.
South Korea’s aggressive policies have paid no respect to minority groups. The LGBTQ community is a prime example. Due to COVID-19 outbreaks in South Korea’s Itaewon District, where most of the country’s LGBTQ nightclubs are, hostility increased and a crackdown on businesses in the area ensued as the government rushed to track and test anyone who may have been exposed. This backlash particularly targeted South Korea’s LGBTQ minority, who were blamed for the spread because of “non-cooperation.”
Additionally, many who tested positive for the virus had their identities publicly made known, exposing them to shame and putting them at risk of discrimination and harassment. If contact tracing is to continue, the country must at the very least preserve the privacy of its citizens for the sake of their individual freedom.
The outbreak at Shincheonji Church in Daegu this past February likewise resulted in mass discrimination against the members of Shincheonji Church, as well as the arrest of several leaders on charges relating to the spread of the virus. Two Shincheonji members were driven to commit suicide because of the spousal abuse that followed after Shincheonji became widely blamed for the spread of COVID-19. Even Shincheonji’s Chairman, 89-year-old Lee Man Hee, has been imprisoned and is awaiting prosecution for an indefinite amount of time.
Sarang Jeil Church, after the most recent outbreak, has provoked the government to even greater action. This time, places of worship in particular have been closed around the country with no sign of opening any time soon. However, many churches are now refusing to close, citing freedom of religion and denying the government’s right to continue imposing such actions against them in their freedom to worship.
Like the story of many governments during national health crises, the pressure brought about by the pandemic is bringing out its true colors. The government is taking advantage of the Coronavirus outbreak to push forward its own political agenda, and anyone who offends them risks lawsuit and imprisonment. A government’s responsibility should be to protect its people, yet the Korean Government did many things that caused more harm than good.
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