Costs to South Korea of ‘Standing With China’ During Coronavirus Outbreak Outweigh Gains

March 11, 2020 Updated: March 11, 2020
FONT BFONT SText size

Commentary

As the deadly novel coronavirus rages across the world, countries with close ties to the Chinese regime seem to be paying a price.

South Korea’s coronavirus outbreak had been relatively calm—until the latter half of last month.

On Feb. 19, the country reported 15 new cases, including its first death. The next day, the number increased by 53, exceeding the total number of confirmed cases from January, and the day after that, new cases surged to 100. Since then, the number has skyrocketed as the outbreak worsens by the day.

There are two recent events worth noting.

On Feb. 20, Kang Seung-seok, South Korea’s newly appointed consul general in China’s outbreak epicenter of Wuhan, visited the city with donated relief supplies from his home country. Kang told Chinese media upon arrival that it’s “very meaningful for the South Korean government to dispatch me to Wuhan during this very difficult period,” according to the Chinese Communist Party’s mouthpiece newspaper People’s Daily.

Kang also said South Korea and China—especially Hubei Province, whose capital is Wuhan—enjoy very close relations, and that they would maintain such relations through “mutual understanding and help,” no matter the circumstances.

Chinese state media prominently covered his trip, calling him a “nonconformist” in choosing to visit Wuhan while everyone else was avoiding it.

Also on Feb. 20, Chinese leader Xi Jinping had a phone conversation with South Korean President Moon Jae-in. Chinese state media said Moon had “specially called to express his condolences and support,” which “shows the friendship between China and South Korea, as close neighbors look out for each other and share life’s ups and downs.”

Moon, for his part, said that “China’s suffering is our own suffering, and the Korean government will try its best to give assistance to its closest neighbor in these difficult times.”

On Feb. 11, the South Korean consulate in Wuhan wrote on its official Weibo account: “China’s difficulty is our difficulty, Korean Consulate stands with you!” The consulate also hung banners on its outer wall with those words emblazoned on them.

While these words appear to address the people of China, it’s in fact helping and encouraging the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). The regime, in trying to maintain its power and image, has continued to ignore the plight of Chinese citizens and hide the truth about the outbreak.

The CCP also intentionally confused the concept of Party and nation. Under the banner of “China,” it has deceived the world and won over the sympathy of foreign countries as well as support for its power. By saying “we stand with you,” South Korea is effectively choosing to stand with the CCP.

South Korean Church’s Wuhan Meeting 

South Korea’s first patient, confirmed on Jan. 20, was a 35-year-old Chinese woman who had traveled from Wuhan. On Jan. 19, the woman landed in Seoul, and was immediately quarantined for exhibiting symptoms that included a fever. Several other returnees from Wuhan later tested positive for the virus.

Shincheonji, a secretive church in the country’s southern city of Daegu that claims to have more than 200,000 followers, has been identified as the center of South Korea’s outbreak.

As of March 10, South Korea’s top health authority KCDC has identified 4,710 cases linked with Shincheonji, accounting for about 63 percent of the tally.

Shincheonji church members had been holding meetings in Wuhan until December, according to South China Morning Post.

The sect had around 200 members in Wuhan, according to the newspaper, which cited anonymous sources.

A kindergarten teacher, who had been part of the Wuhan gatherings, told the Post that “rumors about a virus began to circulate in November but no one took them seriously.”

On Feb. 29, South Korea’s Ministry of Justice said about 3,600 Shincheonji members had traveled to South Korea from China over the past eight months, with 42 of them from Wuhan.

Could the community infections in Daegu be connected with some of these members from China?

Although Moon’s administration has imposed travel restrictions on visitors from Hubei, it didn’t apply such a ban on travelers from other parts of China.

On Feb. 4, a petition was drafted, demanding Moon’s impeachment over his handling of the outbreak.

Failure to enact timely travel restrictions against China, the petition said, endangered the lives of South Koreans. Moon “seems more like the president of China, rather than the president of South Korea,” it read.

The petition had gathered about 1.47 million signatures by its March 5 deadline.

Responding to calls from the public and lawmakers for a broader travel ban on China, Moon said such limitations were impossible and held no practical benefit. According to local media, Moon was worried that the restrictions could backfire and encourage other countries to impose similar measures against South Korean citizens.

Beijing Regime Turns Against South Korea as Virus Hits

As South Korea rushed to control its outbreak, Chinese state media derided the country’s “slow response.” Toutiao, a popular Chinese news app, said South Korea was trying to “cheat off China’s test paper, but got the opposite results.”

Some local Chinese officials also quarantined people who traveled from South Korea. Chosun, a South Korean newspaper, remarked that the Chinese regime was exhibiting schadenfreude.

The coronavirus outbreak has directly affected countries that have close economic ties with China, such as South Korea, where the tourism and automobile industries have suffered significant losses.

According to data from the Korea Automobile Manufacturers Association, South Korean automaker Hyundai has cut back production of 120,000 cars, resulting in a loss of more than 1 trillion won (about $843.87 million).

The drastic worsening of the outbreak in South Korea deserves some reflection. The CCP has asked Chinese people to “follow the Party’s instructions and guidance,” and other countries to “stand with” the Party. But it concealed the truth about the virus from its own citizens and the world’s people, which has resulted in global damage.

The facts have again shown that being friends with the CCP will be detrimental to the country and its people. To “look out for each other” with the CCP could be a recipe for disaster, and the costs outweigh the gains.

Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.