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2015-06-10 17:00
By Do Je-hae

Whenever a national crisis such as the outbreak of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) occurs, the Korean media has a habit of blaming the government.

For the past 20 days since the first MERS outbreak here, reporters have berated the Park Geun-hye administration for lacking the initiative to contain the disease.

A report by Aju Business Daily said “the government has caused a catastrophe due to the absence of a proper reaction.” A Segye Ilbo report stated that the entire nation is “paralyzed in fear” over the disease.

Such biased reports are untrue and unhelpful to resolving the medical crisis.
They have only served to seriously dent the people’s trust in the government’s capacity to deal with the outbreak and hurt Korea’s image internationally.

In a rare move, President Park, who previously made overseas trips at difficult times for her administration, has postponed a U.S. trip as people's hostility toward the government rises over its MERS response.

More people are shunning visits to Korea, hampering the tourism sector. Schools are closing and many cultural and sports events nationwide are being cancelled. The whole nation is coming to a halt.

The collective fretting by the Korean people over MERS seems based on misleading reports. Some experts say that the respiratory disease is a severe form of a cold that can be prevented with proper precautions.

In particular, experts say that the “40 percent death rate” as reported in some media outlets is exaggerated.

Throughout SNS, people exchanged fears concerns that MERS could be more serious that the Ebola virus or Severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS).

The Korean Hospitals Association has asked the people not to be swayed by  rumors and comply with government guidelines.

Rather than fueling misunderstandings and spreading misinformation, the media should be more cautious in its reports on MERS and focus on facts.

The Korean people have a history of unique cooperation in overcoming national crises, like the campaign to collect gold during the financial crisis in the late 1990s.

The MERS outbreak is a chance for Koreans to display that kind of collective thinking for the country again.


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