Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Your respiratory functions are being monitored.

I just got a phone call from the Korean CDC. Apparently I was seen-- and reported-- sneezing at the airport, and my name got put onto a list.

Dear Korea: You are unhinged. Seriously. There is something wrong with a country that has the kind of police-state mentality it would take to a) monitor travelers' bodily functions, whether through spies or security cameras or whatever, and then b) rather than speaking to them in person, and resolving the issue on the site, put their names on watchlists and track them down inside Korea. (That plan of action, actually, makes me think they have someone going through security footage in search of suspicious respiratory activity-- or, possibly, that they require airport/airline staff to post daily reports of illness indicators, which are gone through later.)

Fortunately, the caller was convinced by my (accurate) explanation of my suspicious sneezes: I have summer allergies. I started sneezing immediately after getting to Japan. (The disease, according to the guy on the phone, incubates for seven to nine days before symptoms appear.) He told me to watch myself for a week or so, and call the CDC if anything showed up. (Right.) Still, I was majorly creeped out by the phone call. The speaker-- who started the conversation by mangling my name-- had that oily, too-intimate tone we associate with people who do not mean us well. If I could have asked to see his credentials over the phone, I would have done so.

Worst, I don't think my concerns are idle. I read an article in a free English-language mag called Groove: Korea about the Korean government's... unique?... approach to quarantine. After a case of swine flu appeared in a new English teacher who'd just gone through company training, several dozen of his co-trainees were rounded up in ambulances and dragged off to quarantine. They were lied to (or at least misinformed) about where they were going. Many were not given a chance to pack their bags, and had to spend the next several days in a strange place with no possessions and no changes of clothing. A blog entry with links to several accounts can be found here.

I'm going to be looking over my shoulder for weeks. Thanks, Korea.


  1. icky and creepy! leave a trail of breadcrumbs...or shredded kleenex, if you get hauled off, and be sure to sneeze and drool on your captors.

  2. It would definitely be the worst revenge. :P