2020-05-28 20:43 (Thu)
The Pandemic Culture
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The Pandemic Culture
  • Min Kim Head of Culture Division
  • Approved 2020.04.02 21:36
  • Comments 0
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Amidst the global pandemic and the many unprecedented complications it brings , I, a responsible member of society who is doing my part by “social distancing”, am peacefully slurping away on the last bits of my instant noodles, and scrolling through “new releases” on Netflix. As I struggle to pick out the film of optimum length, gravity, and aesthetics to match my mood, I realize that this genuinely feels like the most significant task of the day. A little baffled by this thought, I draw the curtains to see spring, in its enticing colors, creeping around the corners of the campus. While I strongly agree with the preventative measures, including the cancellation of countless sporting and cultural events around the globe, I cannot help but resent the fact that this season of outdoor activities and cultural enrichment will go to waste.

KAIST, for one, with the indefinite extension of online classes until further notice, canceled all its usual spring semester events. So no KAMF, no student festival (TaeWoolSeokLimJae), and no International Food Festival, to name a few. But above all, I am most grief-stricken by the absence of strawberry parties — the pinnacle of campus delight, the source of the rarest spell of relaxed atmosphere KAIST only sees once a year. Additionally, on March 23, KAIST announced stricter measures in limiting outsiders from entering the campus, presumably in response to concerns about potential overcrowding caused by its famous cherry blossoms. This means that the “Korean Advanced Grand Park of Science and Technology”, as some students call it, will not be seeing its usual picnic-goers and bikers this year.

On a global scale, people are expressing both concerns and disappointment on the fates of various major sporting and cultural events. Concerts and music festivals are being canceled, and films are being held from release. The Premier League has further postponed the initial postponement of its matches from April 3 to April 30 at the earliest. And while the tennis French Open has been pushed from May to September, the US Open is still assessing its options, “including the possibility of moving the tournament to a later date”. Meanwhile, the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo has also been postponed by a year, as announced by the International Olympic Committee on March 24. Even before this announcement, the Canadian and Australian teams boycotted the event along with numerous individual athletes. Thus, if the Games were to be held in this time of unprecedented global crisis, the core values of the Games — excellence, respect, and friendship  — would have been undermined anyways.

"It is better to leave the disappointments and worries aside and find new ways to entertain ourselves as a means to stay positive and patient."

Dalgona coffee. Source: Kimchimari
Dalgona coffee. Source: Kimchimari

With all these events canceled, and the advice to abstain from attending social gatherings, people are bored indoors. Work is done from home, university lectures are given online, and people are on the internet — killing time on Netflix, or trying to fulfill their basic human desire to socialize through virtual means. Interestingly, just as we are thinking that this is a time of a cultural downturn, new trends are arising through the internet. A whole new string of memes especially to do with the self-quarantine lifestyle lighten up the mood. As PewDiePie says in one of his recent videos, “the worse things are, the better the memes”. Making “dalgona coffee” is one activity trending on the internet in Korea. Dalgona is a Korean-style toffee made by caramelizing sugar, which the creamy topping of this menu resembles. The cream is made by mixing sugar, coffee powder, and hot water together and beating the mixture a few thousand times until it becomes thick and creamy. The idea is simple, but requires a lot of time and manual labor — perfect for those who just cannot sit still and have to exhaust their excess energy. Dalgona coffee gained fame through social media platforms like TikTok, and started spreading outside of Korea. In accordance with the trend, Shinhan Bank is running a promotional event in which people upload pictures of their “baking or cooking fails”. The event description specifically mentions “pro-quarantine-ers”, targeting those looking for ways to entertain themselves indoors.

The coronavirus has changed daily lives, and it is definitely a difficult time for everyone who is affected directly or indirectly by the pandemic. Much of our anticipation for the new decade has already been let down. However, there are always things to smile about that make the challenges slightly more bearable. It is better to leave the disappointments and worries aside and find new ways to entertain ourselves as a means to stay positive and patient.


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