Well, the past week has been filled with activity here on the peninsula.
First off, the former president, Roh Moo-hyun, commits suicide while the government was investigating him for accepting bribes during his term. His death suddenly turned into a political ploy. Opponents of the current Korean administration (Lee Myung-bak) are using his death to blame Lee for employing harsh tactics and for basically ruining the nation. The day that he died an alter was immediately setup in front of my neighborhood metro station to allow people to bow and pay respects while someone on a loud speaker attracted an audience by denouncing President Lee. From what I hear, these alters are all around Seoul.
North Korea decided today to continue their craziness. They thought it would a fine idea to conduct an underground nuclear test while test firing some missiles at the same time. I think someone is just cranky they aren't getting their way. More here and here. Let's hope the place doesn't get nuked while I'm here. The Koreans don't seem to get too worked up about these things, though. The US Embassy did send me a notice about the test and reminded to always be prepared in case of a sudden evacuation.
Also, swine flu seems to be raging here on the ROK. More Koreans are being confirmed to have the virus. This past weekend, an American that recently came here to teach was confirmed to have the virus. Another American was discovered to have the virus today. That person also recently came to Korea to teach English. The school is a big chain here, and they send all of there new teachers to a big orientation/training session in Seoul. So, that person was in close contact with all kinds of other new teachers. That person has since been put in quarantine. Also, every Western that came in contact with that American has been rounded up in ambulances by the government and taken to a hospital so they can be isolated. People stuck in the hospital are blogging here, here, and here. An expat blogger in Korea gives a nice round-up of news regarding the situation here. News articles can be read here and here.
There are rumors in my town (Bucheon) that a foreigner at a big English school next to mine was involved with that week-long training session. The English school is big chain here in Korea and has decided to shut down for the next week to avoid more infections.
I'm a little worried about what the means for us foreigners. I fear that Koreans are going to get really worried by the "American sickness" and shun us in public. Maybe even the government will round us up and quarantine us or deport us; who knows. I heard that new teachers that has arrived after May 11 will have to undergo a home quarantine. If parents get really concerned, they will start pulling their students from our school to avoid the virus coming from foreigners.
Today, I told one of my classes that I was a little sick. They instantly asked if it was the "pig virus." I, of course, told them it probably was. One of the kids told me that I needed to eat lots of kimchi in order to get rid of the "pig virus." Another kid said it was the "America virus," and he then asked me if I was an "American people." Once I said yes, they all gasped in unison and pushed their chairs back away from me. That's just an example of what I think this might develop into. Koreans are already suspicious about letting foreigners into the country; this will only heighten their unfounded fears.