South Korea begins its five-day Chuseok holiday on Wednesday where traditionally, people travel back to their hometowns to spend the thanksgiving period with their families.
But the age-old harvest celebration won't see the usual large gatherings full of food, games and traditional rituals. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, South Koreans have been advised against travel and big family gatherings during the holiday, in fear of infection cases peaking yet again.
While 3 out of 4 Koreans say they won't be travelling during the holiday period, hundreds of thousands are expected to flock to popular tourist destinations fueling concerns that this could trigger another wave of infections.
To discuss the government's precautionary measures and what more needs to be done, especially ahead of the flu season, we connect with Dr. David Tizzard, Professor of Korean Studies at Seoul Women's University. Good to have you join us Dr. Tizzard.
We also connect with Dr. Kwon Soon-man, Professor and Former Dean of Public Health at Seoul National University. It's lovely to see you again.
Dr. Tizzard: In addition to encouraging people not to travel over the holidays, the government's done what it can to stop church gatherings, group activities and academic facilities over the Chuseok holidays, and even warning those who join protests that legal action will be taken. But as you've pointed out, the most popular resorts in the country's holiday spots are fully booked. What's the danger here?
Dr. Kwon: What kind of special measures should be in place in these holiday spots?
To both: Infection cases spiked after the holidays in May and Liberation Day on Aug. 15. South Korea's never had a rigorous lockdown but is self-regulation working? Or is compliance turning into complacency?
Dr. Tizzard: The messages we get from government are important at this time. So is leadership. Is this something South Koreans are getting at the moment?
Dr. Kwon: How should authorities and members of the public prepare for the colder, flu-rampant season?
Dr. Tizzard: We should also remember members of society whose livelihoods are hanging on these social distancing measures that are always subject to change. How should we protect them?
Dr. Kwon: How do you think authorities will control the social distancing measures, going forward? Will we keep seeing the measures loosened then tightened? And in that case, how should businesses and workers impacted by such measures be supported?
Dr. Kwon Soon-man, Professor and Former Dean of Public Health at Seoul National University and Dr. David Tizzard, Professor of Korean Studies at Seoul Women's University.
Thank you for your insights.