Skip Navigation


Expats thankful for Busan's COVID-19 approach Ⅰ

"I've been touched by the city reaching out."

Jenni Payne-Wheeler is a teacher and six-year Busan resident. She is currently enrolled at Oxford University, where she is working toward her second Master's degree.  

7-1-6 교체
△ Jenni Payne-Wheeler.

When virus cases began to multiply in February, many of us didn't know what to expect. As it became clear that Korea's outbreak was becoming the biggest outside China, life seemed to go on pause. Knowing that confirmed patients were in my area drove home the seriousness of the situation when I walked past shops and restaurants with signs in their windows saying "temporarily closed due to COVID 19." The start of the semester was delayed and then moved online. 

Many foreigners began to face pressure from their family and friends in their countries of origin to come home, but for most of us, Busan is our home. Our decision to stay was justified when it quickly became apparent that Korea was reacting swiftly and comprehensively. As cases in our home countries exploded, Korea's effectiveness became all the more evident. In particular, the situation in my own home nation, the UK, began to make clear that Busan was one of the safest places to be.

While Busan has faced closures of institutions like museums, baseball games and libraries, the government has been able to rely largely on the cooperation of its residents and their desire to protect themselves and each other. We haven't seen the mandatory closures of businesses or the strict lockdown measures that other countries have. As a result, many of us can still go to work, go to the grocery store and take public transportation, which residents of other nations have been unable to do for weeks now. Thanks to the ability and willingness to test and trace anyone who might be at risk, Korea has been able to control this outbreak while still protecting its principles of democracy and freedom.

I miss seeing friends, attending baseball games and going to the gym. I miss seeing my students face to face. But I've been touched by the city reaching out to foreigners with daily radio broadcasts in English and by the patience of pharmacy and medical staff, who have to deal with my poor Korean skills. My hope now is that the rest of the world can follow Korea's example.