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Epidemic Crisis Reveals Public’s Distrust in Government
By Yang Se-young  |  worldyang@hanyang.ac.kr
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[323호] 승인 2014.09.01  
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     Like in the 1995 movie, Outbreak, a terrifying virus called the “Ebola Virus Disease(EVD)” has surfaced as a global issue, causing great fear across countries including Korea. EVD however, is not a disease that was recently discovered. As a matter of fact, it was first identified 38 years ago in 1976, in a small village located in northern Democratic Republic of Congo. As the virus usually occurs in isolated places like in tropical regions of Sub-Saharan Africa, less than a thousand people have been infected in three decades. However, in 2014, the biggest EVD outbreak has occurred, also known as the “2014 West Africa Ebola virus outbreak,” affecting Guinea, Sierra Leone, Liberia as well as Nigeria. As a result, the World Health Organization declared the outbreak as an “International Public Health Emergency” on August 8, 2014.                                                  
    As the EVD has become a global emergency, exaggerated rumors are unfortunately being spread around the world, and Korea is not an exception. Regarding the virus, there has been a claim that the disease could be spread through the air and that the mortality rate of the virus is over 95 percent. Although most of these rumors have been proven false, there is still reason to believe that EVD is a big threat. The mortality rate is actually not as high as 95 percent, but it is still high, reaching 60 to 70 percent, with no found cure.
    The fear of this horrifying epidemic recently raised controversy involving the Global Partnership Program for Working Women, which was held at Duksung Women’s University(DWU) from August 4 to 15, sponsored by DWU and United Nations Women. As a global festival, students from all over the world were invited. What triggered the controversy, however, was the fact that students from Africa were also invited to the event. Since the largest outbreak of EVD has occurred in West Africa, many Koreans including students of DWU were against holding the program and calling for the cancellation of the event. “All students at DWU are hoping for the event to be cancelled. As the festival is held in cooperation with the United Nations, cancellation of the event is not easy. I want the government to help us,” posted a student from DWU on the free board of CheongWaDae’s(the Blue House) website, which received positive responses from other people.
    However, the government responded that they would not cancel the festival, claiming, “The countries where the African students are from are unrelated with the African countries experiencing the outbreak. It would be a discriminatory act if we forbid these African students to enter into our country just because they are from Africa.” This brought more worries among Koreans, saying on the Internet, “It is obvious that if EVD is found in our country, all of our population will disappear. The government will then come back to its senses and learn the consequences of their decision.” Other comments of Korean netizens could be easily found on the Internet which criticized the government, such as “The crisis management ability of the government sucks. We all learned that during the Sewol ferry crisis.” The responses of these Koreans on the Internet have shown how much they distrust the government. Since the Sewol ferry crisis occurred last April 15, where hundreds of passengers, were killed, the government has largely lost the trust of the people.              
    Besides the responses on the EVD issue, many others have lost their faith in the government due to the mysterious death of Yoo Byeong-eon, the owner of the Cheonghaejin Ferry Company. Although Yoo Byeong-eon is reported to be dead, many doubt the claim, for it is unlikely for a corpse such as his to have decayed so quickly given the short time span. The government should therefore, work steadfastly to regain the trust of the people they are supposed to being working for. However, decisions to push ahead with health care privatization, despite the opposition of many and the hiring of the former personal trainer of popular actress, Jun Ji-hyeon, in office, will not help regain trust in any way.

   
 
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