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MERS in Korea

June 24, 2015

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Alright. It’s about time we tackled this subject, and did our best to calm the fears inflicted upon mothers of traveling children thanks to the media firestorm of rating-grubbing and click baiting. Though I know you can accuse of us click-baiting for this video as well, we’re not doing it to make you all shit your pants in fear. We’re trying to calm you down and put things in perspective a bit, so I hope you think that’s fair.

A couple more interesting things to note about MERS; another one of the reasons why it’s hurting Korea isn’t just because of a few people dying from it, but also because it’s destroying this year’s tourism revenue. We’ve spoken with a few people online who have cancelled their trips. And they’re not the only ones. The number of tourists dropped significantly after the MERS outbreak. Even worse, countries such as Hong Kong and Japan are advising their citizens to not visit South Korea unless necessary. Far fewer Chinese tourists are coming to Korea as well, and that’s devastating, because Chinese tourists make up a significant percentage of Korea’s tourism revenue.

If Korea continues to lose its influx of international travellers this summer, the industry could lose over $900 million in expected revenue, according to the Ministry of Tourism, at roughly a 20% decline and an estimated loss of 820,000 tourists. In other words, this perception of danger from MERS is having a really bad impact on the Korean economy.

Otherwise, another thing I didn’t talk about was the quarantines that are in effect in Korea. About 2,800 people are being quarantined due to MERS-like symptoms, and roughly 10,718 people are reported to have been released from quarantine. And at least 2,000 schools were temporarily closed – and some are still closed – mainly in Gyeonggi Province, which is where MERS is most prevalent. And though it seems like closing the schools isn’t really effective, it at least keeps parents satisfied that precautions were taken, right?

Whether people stay in quarantine, though, is what I find interesting. Some jobs might not want you to obey the quarantine ordered by your doctor. In fact, it happened to us back when we were teaching years ago and the SARS outbreak was rampant in Korea. The government said we had to stay home for a week after flying back from Canada, but our schools tried to order us to come to school and break the quarantine. I’m sure our jobs weren’t the only ones that value work over health (KPOP COMPANIES AMIRITE OR AMIRITE?!). Interestingly now, though, potential patients who refuse to be quarantined can pay a fine of 3 million won, though I’m not sure how they will be caught or reported.

So that’s it for now. I really hope, if you were scared of MERS beforehand, that you’ll feel a little more at ease now. Now back to Martina and the final stages of Dengue. She’s fortunately not bleeding everywhere and rashing, but she definitely went through the bone-breaker stage, which was pretty miserable for her. Now she’s just weakened and bed-ridden, but getting better!

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MERS in Korea

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  1. Jay

    For the next TL;DR video, could you perhaps talk about tipping in Korea? I recall learning in my Anthropology class that in certain countries it is not common to leave a tip to the server after your meal. You guys are always doing your fapfap videos so I’ve always wondered if you guys leave a generous tip whether it’s because the food was amazing, or because the establishment was nice enough to let you film.

    4 years ago
  2. Talking about over reacting… I live in the South of France, and supposedly recently the ‘tiger mosquito’, which is a possible vector of Chikungunya and dengue, settled here. Mind you, I didn’t hear of anyone having caught any of these diseases in the area. But they still made articles in the newspapers and the internet about how to protect from the mosquito, and even created a website where you should report any ‘tiger mosquito’ you see in your area. o_0

    I also remember during the ‘h1n1 flu’ outbreak in 2009, I remember they made massive campains about how to wash your hands, and put them in the toilets at Uni. Except these toilets were outdoor squat toilets, which reeked of urine and whatnot, were hardly ever cleaned, and where soap dispensers were either broken or empty. I’m pretty sure a thousands more aggressive viruses were thriving there. I always found the situation kind of ironic^^

    Anyways, dengue seems pretty bad, Get well soon Martina!

    4 years ago
  3. TL;DR Question: So you guys did a video on drinking culture in South Korea and you also covered some of the drunk driving laws in Simon’s video about what happened to Rose. My question is how do South Koreans view and feel about alcohol addiction and alcoholics? In the West it is seen as a serious problem and there are a lot of help groups for alcoholics and their families, such as Alcoholics Anonymous. Is it the same in South Korea, the country that you told us consumes more shots than any other country in the world?

    Much love to the EatYouKimchi team!

    4 years ago
  4. We were originally going on a trip to Korea, but my parents cancelled it because of MERS. We are travelling with a couple seniors, some over the age of 90, and I guess it was just too risky. Complications other than MERS could occur and lead to a hospital visit… I really wanted to visit Korea, but I’ll have to wait for another chance.

    4 years ago
  5. TL;DR Question: Hi guys, so I’ve been interested in Korea for quite some time now, and am thinking of going there for Uni, however I have some qualms about how women in Korea dress, and look very feminine. I identify as gender-neutral, so I often wear jeans and hoodies, and I have very short hair *high-five to Martina for one side shaved*, and most of my friends are guys. So, I was wondering if because of how I look and act, I would be looked down upon on Korea because I’m not feminine despite having a female body, and therefore by extension, considered unattractive?

    4 years ago
  6. TL;DR Idea: Domestic Abuse in South Korea. I don’t know if you have heard of the Sunny Kim being abused and murdered by her boyfriend, who is called Mr.Lee in the article I read, and how he impersonated her and a bunch of horrible stuff. One thing that really ticked me off is that proof of her domestic abuse was taken to the police station last year but the police had done nothing about it. If you want to read more heres a link: http://www.buzzfeed.com/rossalynwarren/a-boyfriend-says-he-murdered-his-girlfriend-for-breaking-up. I want to know how common domestic abuse is and how it is handled, especially by police. Thank You!

    4 years ago
  7. Oh MERS..
    As a someone who lived and started nursing in Toronto, right when SARS hit, I am well aware of the panic. But let us be clear that SARS hit when the global community couldn’t cope, or didn’t have the policies in place to deal with it. SARS was a awake up call. ( I won’t lie, I kinda enjoyed how calm china town was though then)…So my message is, calm down. Be smart. Don’t cough in your hands, thats why we got elbows, hand sanitizer is ok- but if its anti bacterial then its for bacteria, got to make sure there is an alcohol base to act as an antiseptic. And if in doubt, just wash your hands.
    Don’t even get me started on Ebola… holy f’bomb north america….
    Great videos guys!

    4 years ago
  8. Oh no Martina! My brother got dengue when he went to… I can’t remember which island now. Saint something? Anyway, it was not pretty. Fever, chills, couldn’t eat for like a week, broke out in a horribly itchy rash that nothing would help. I hope you don’t feel too awful and get better quickly! Damn you mosquitoes!!!
    Also thanks for the MERS info – was wondering how exaggerated this all was. I mean, flus can be dangerous, but no one freaks out because of the regular flu and that’s just as deadly as the swine flu or MERS from what it sounds like. And regular flu is much easier to spread it sounds like. Horrible to hear about the people who’ve been effected, but glad it’s not really something the general population needs to worry so much about.

    4 years ago
  9. THANK YOU THANK YOU SO MUCH EYK CREW!!!! My mum watched the videos and post and said I can go!!! You have saved my holiday and I’m soooo HAPPY! I’ll make sure to visit youarehere cafe.
    I was really worried to hear that Martina has Dengue fever, it’s quite common in tropical countries
    Drink lots of fluid to keep your temperature down, sweet drinks like chocolate/banana shakes are really good! You’re also allowed to have a copious amount of fatty desserts!
    Get well soon <3

    4 years ago
  10. I was in Korea in early June when this whole thing started (at least we started hearing it in the news). And I must say everything was pretty normal there.
    The worst part is when I got home and got a small flu, everyone was so dramatic about me having MERS!! I was so annoyed by this since I knew it was just a small flu. People are not realising that this thing is not as contagious as they think and that you don’t get it as soon as you land in Korea!

    Yeah, so moral of the story, don’t be afraid to go to Korea just because of that~ Just take the right precautions.:)

    4 years ago
  11. Still going to Korea at the end of the summer! Get well martina!! :)

    4 years ago
  12. I died of MERS yesterday. Thank God I caught the Zombie virus in 2010.

    In 2002 I was in Hong Kong during a SARS outbreak (with no Zombie virus to protect me). I had to laugh at the people wearing t-shirts wrapped around their heads, because of a lack of available masks.

    Over the years of traveling I learned never to touch my hands to my face, ever. Especially avoid rubbing your eyes, the quickest way to get a virus into your body.

    4 years ago
  13. This MERS outbreak kind of reminds me of the SARS outbreak Toronto had over a decade ago. Only health care workers, care givers, elderly, really young and sickly were at any risk of contracting SARS and not being able to fight it off. It hit the tourism industry pretty hard – so hard in fact that there was a concert in order to entice people to come https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Molson_Canadian_Rocks_for_Toronto

    4 years ago
  14. Meg

    awww did Martina get a last minute going away present from Bali? (I’m just assuming cause Dengue fever tends to come from tropical regions) This was a really informative post! My moms a retired nurse so she already knew that the hype was being blown out of proportion, but hey, thats what the media does right?

    4 years ago
  15. Woah, I have never even heard of MERS before. This video was really informative, thanks. I was just wondering, when are you going to announce the venues for the meet your kimchi tour? Well, I hope Martina gets well soon.

    4 years ago
  16. I live in Turkey and MERS is also flared up in here last couple of months and some how i managed to get MERS myself. Funny thing is my doctor told me that i shouldn’t even shake people’s hands because that’s a very risky and contagious disease this did not stop my boyfriend from being snuggly and affectionate but he didn’t get MERS. So you shouldn’t be that afraid after all. That’s my story ^^…

    4 years ago
  17. From all I’ve heard dengue fever is probably more serious than MERS. I hope Martina gets better soon and doesn’t feel too badly. Fighting, Martina!!

    4 years ago
  18. Get well soon, Martina!

    4 years ago
  19. Haha I listened to your radio show about this twice. The mers play list was awesome but for the zombie song I would have done zombie party by speed instead of lovie dovie. Jombie paarty! Like a jombie that would have been epic.

    4 years ago
  20. I like how you mentioned the fact that automotive accidents are more common and yet everyone focuses on mers. It’s similar here in California. I feel like the media enjoys the fact that it is easier to get a rise out of people over something that you can’t see. It’s easier to build mystery and “drama”. Keep the great info coming though :).p.s. is music Monday dead? I need to know so I can start mourning the loss of it. Have a great day and get Well to Martina.

    4 years ago
  21. We were going to go to Korea this summer, but other reasons (not related to MERS) prevented us from going. My parents think it is a good thing that we decided not to go at the moment. Personally, I don’t get sick often so I’m not concerned. I wasn’t concerned with swine flu or Ebola, and I don’t plan to be concerned about MERS.

    Now, I don’t think my parents are scared of the illness (probably). However, I know my parents have issues with how the government is handling the situation. They think the government is taking the issue to the extreme by closing schools and doing things that aren’t necessarily going to stop the illness. My parents think that the government shoud have acted immediately after the first case. If they did, it probably wouldn’t have blown up to this scale.

    The other concern is the relation to SARS. My mom is from Hong Kong and her best friend (who is living in HK) told her what happened to the city after the illness. It wasn’t great for the city. As a result, they are very strict against any illnesses that could do the same thing. This applies to the other Asian countries that dealt with the SARS outbreak. They want nothing to do with this MERS problem in Korea. Even if we were able to go to Korea this summer, we would not be able to enter HK and that would hurt us the most. Or if we are able to, we’d be quaratined for medical inspections.

    I think the Korean economy might take a similar turn to what happened to HK after SARS. It’s great if you want to get a condo, but it’ll hurt the local economy since there is a reliance on tourism.

    4 years ago
  22. Oh! By any chance can you get papaya leaves for martina? That seems to be the remedy of choice where i’m from. On top of cooling stuff such as coconut water and watermelon (eat the whites too!)

    4 years ago
  23. Thanks guys, the facts you mentioned are rather assuring. After seeing what you guys wrote, i’ve learnt to ‘doubt’ the media. Just today was a headline ‘MERS worsens in south korea’ which sounds all shit hit the fan when it wasn’t all that severe. I arrived in Busan on the 21st on a plane that was most certainly losing money on that particular flight…so little passengers! Brought a bunch of masks although I really do not trust it wud help much if shit happens but,as someone mentioned, it`s a placebo thing :-/ looking forward to my next few days in korea!!! RAWWR!

    4 years ago
  24. Excellent reporting, Simon, and very re-assuring. And I hope Martina feels better soon!

    For a future TL;DR (if you want something more light-hearted), I’d love to see something on Korean birthdays and age. Do they do birthday parties like they do in North America? Are there any important ages (in the US 18 is adult, 21 can drink, in Mexico 15 is important for girls becoming women, etc.)?

    4 years ago
  25. I’m planning to go to Seoul and was hesitant whether to cancel the trip or not, but after seeing your video I think I’m gonna go after all :)
    Wishing Martina a speedy recovery! Here in Indonesia Dengue fever is pretty common, I had it 2 years ago and got better pretty quickly thanks to one nasty Chinese medicine which tastes like soy sauce (unfortunately I forgot the name). But normally eating lots of guava and drinking a lot of water helps!

    4 years ago
  26. My friend just went home yesterday to Seoul to see her family after four years and introduce her fiance to them. They had her postpone her trip twice. We were, just get a mask, drink water, wash your hands and carry hand sanitizer. She laughed and said she has become too American in the time she’s been here.

    4 years ago
  27. Oh I forgot! Martina! Get well soon!! I’ve never had dengue myself but when I was living in Costa Rica I knew a few people who got it and it REALLY sucks.

    4 years ago
  28. I’m going to Korea on Monday and I’m so not cancelling my trip. Here is what I’m worried about. I live in China at the moment and China seems a bit freaked out about it, so when I go back to China with the slightest cold symptoms I might disappear into an instant quarantine and never be seen or heard of again :/

    4 years ago
    • Ha! That’s something we worried about when we landed in Incheon. There’s that thermal camera that checks if you have a fever when you leave the airplane, and we said to each other “ok, if it beeps, you just start running for it. I’ll tackle security. GOGOGOGOGGO!” It didn’t beep, though, so…that was good :D

      4 years ago
  29. Can you guys please please do a tl;dr about the #HelpLeeJungHee situation? A lot of Korean media are ignoring this problem and are acting like it never happened.

    4 years ago
  30. I believe the only reason why mers is becoming such a big deal is that people are not trusting the government at all lately due to past events, so instead of listening to how it is spread and how quickly it is spread they are just focusing on the media which is paid to have the people in fear. so what to do fix the government or the media…hahaha

    4 years ago
  31. Looking at the wedding pic with masks made me remember that something similar happened here in Mexico on 2009 with the swine flu. At that time I thought that Mexico was starting to look somewhat like Asia because never before I had seen the use of masks in public except for some asian pics. The risk wasn’t that high neither.

    4 years ago
  32. Thank you for explaining this! Wishing that Martina gets better soontimes and that she’s not in too much discomfort.

    4 years ago
  33. Traffic related accidents are exactly the same thing I used to persuade my grandparents that going to Korea at this time probably won’t kill me. Talk about ironic, since I’m used to calming them down with, no grandma, I have higher chance of catching a cold in the plane than falling to death because of the engines failing or something. Well, at least now everybody and their grandmother know where Korea actually is. (Japan and Fukushima, anyone?)

    Had to buy a packs of masks though, because even though mum was cool with me going she was still really worried and insisted I bring more than usual. Never mind that masks don’t really protect us as much as we would like to think, since your usual over-the counter mask isn’t really designed to block small particles like viruses, but I guess for some people even the slight placebo effect could be important. I still wear it in a subway though, as I’m still a little bit sleep-deprived from jet-lag and my immune system tends to go haywire durning the first few days. Still, it has guaranteed me some funny looks with, look even the foreigners wear masks now! Lol

    I though that we still had no idea whether MERS is airborne or not though? I mean, some research’s been going on, but as I understand it there isn’t any definite answer or proof, is there? Or did miss something?

    Hope Martina gets better soon! And looking forward to visiting the coffeeshop!

    4 years ago
    • Speaking as your friendly epidemiologist, the lab scientists or clinicians may not be willing to say, “no, it definitely isn’t airborne” yet, but if it were, we’d be seeing a ton more of cases by now. So, good, Simon, for understanding that.
      Also, yea! Simon, for understanding denominators and conveying that in a clear manner without condescension, something I sometimes mess up. Very well done! All-round good video – I just hope enough of the panic remains that there’ll be empty seats on our mid-August flight to Korea so I can stretch out for a snooze.

      4 years ago
  34. Haha, the example about the car accident is exactly what I’ve told people who are worrying about me traveling to Korea… ^^ I won’t let MERS scare me into cancelling my trip – I’ll be flying to Seoul this Friday. Looking forward to it! :D

    4 years ago
  35. Personally if I was going to go to Korea while there was this MERS outbreak, I’d probably get super sick, as I’m on medication that makes my immune system become extremely weak. So maybe I’d end up being on of the few under 18’s to end up being effected by it :) Yet, I’d don’t think people who are healthy should not be put off from going to Korea, as the threat of MERS is being exaggerated by the media. Great Video Btw, hope Martina will feel better soon ^_^

    4 years ago
  36. Sorry to hear Martina has Dengue fever. Glad its not the severe version. They say, keeping her hydrated and comfortable is generally good medicine. I do wonder why they keep the fatality rate of MERS so high, when it seems pretty obvious that it isn’t true. I wonder if just tons of modifiers ( if you have this, and if you get this, then you might get x and you have a 40% mortality rate ) are getting lost in the news.

    4 years ago
    • I made sure Martina drank more water than a fish, and she slept almost all day, every day, from the 17th up until now. She’s doing significantly better now, fortunately :D

      4 years ago
  37. I hate to say I was buying into the news and the scary MERS that was killing off poor Koreans. The mask companies are probably working with the news to keep people freaked out. You need to print out and hand flyers out on the street or at least in your cafe to teach people the truth…You guys rock!!! Feel better Martina

    4 years ago
  38. Thank you so much for this video! I think this video had pretty much all the facts needed for any traveller (such as myself) coming to Korea and I’ll be sure to show my parents this video to convince them :))

    4 years ago
  39. also the government of south korea will pay the medical expenses/travel expenses and also pay you $3k if you travel there and catch MERS. sorry to hear about martina. hope she’s getting better

    4 years ago
  40. Thank you for that video ! I’m coming to Seoul this summer with a friend, and we try to hide the trip from our grand parents. You know how worry they can be ;) So glad we ain’t gonna die there :p But the plan was “better die in Seoul than be bored at home” ^^

    4 years ago