You know what’s worse than MERS? KCACO.

Here’s a memory I don’t usually retrieve.

I was in my first year in middle school – so Year 9 by the UK system. It was a really beautiful Saturday afternoon in autumn. The sky was surreal blue creating such a contrast with the complete yellow of ginkgo leaves. Ginkgo was the ‘school tree’, hence everywhere on campus. As we would have classes only until lunchtime on Saturdays, I was changing my shoes and getting ready to head back home.

Like I said, the sky was so mesmerisingly blue that I had to look up one more time. That was when I eye-witnessed someone throwing herself out of a window. I saw her in mid-air for a fraction of a second. The next thing I know is that I ran to the faculty office to grab whoever was still there. This is all I can remember of that day.

She was two years senior to us and apparently had attempted suicide a few months prior. There were also a lot of other gossips around, about the who, the how, and the why, but as far as I am concerned, I am not even sure sometimes if any of that day was real.

A couple of things that have left me a clear imprint though. One is the fact that the first thing on the following Monday was a long announcement on the school radio from the head teacher that the student had long been “unstable” and “deviant” and that we on the other hand must remain calm and carry on with our study the way we should. And most importantly, we mustn’t try to find out more about what happened nor spread gossips about it.

Now fast-forward to 2015. You might have read recently that there is an outbreak of MERS in South Korea at the moment. The government is once again totally failing at responding to it, letting the body count constantly pile up, and giving the public a déjà vu of the Sewol disaster. The very first thing that the president and other government bodies did in the face of this crisis was to warn the public against any attempt at rumour-mongering. In that regard, they acted quite swiftly too. While the authorities refused to disclose the list of hospitals to be quarantined for the stated reason of not unsettling the public, a 49-year-old man shared an incorrect list of four such hospitals with his acquaintances through a mobile messenger. The police booked him without detention for spreading false information via ICT (as per the Network Act) and obstruction of business (as per the penal code).

All sounds sickeningly familiar. Decades have passed on, but nothing seems to have changed since.

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