Traveling to South Korea during COVID-19

What it’s like to live in a country known for dealing with the pandemic properly


Andy Chung

The Incheon Airport’s terminal lounge is relatively quiet. COVID-19 has impacted the airport industry as much as airlines.

Andy Chung, Reporter

I traveled to South Korea for three weeks from September 21st to October 11th. South Korea deals with Covid-19 very differently from America. As soon as I landed at Incheon International Airport, I was required to sign multiple waivers acknowledging my compliance with the local rules and following a strict quarantine. Even before getting to customs, I was stopped and asked to download an app run by the government, which tracks your daily health and location. After waiting through long lines and signing waivers, I was able to go outside. But the story doesn’t end there. 

To get to my house, I needed to ride a special taxi fitted with coverings and other necessary precautions installed. After arriving home, I set my bags down and took off my mask, which I had on the entire flight. The feeling of taking off my mask after 16 hours was very relieving.

The next morning, I had to self diagnose myself by checking my temperature and filling out documents indicating my current health. The process was required twice a day, one in the morning and one in the afternoon. At first, the routine was very annoying and hard to get adjusted at first but after a few days, I got used to it. Not being able to leave the house, I had to order all the food and necessary items. The process of ordering things online was much easier than I expected it.

On the second day, The government required me to get tested for Covid-19 at a designated location. Getting my nose swabbed was pretty painful but worth knowing that I was Covid free. After getting tested, I had to go straight back to my house and continue self-quarantining. 

Having to stay indoors all day and not be able to go out and enjoy the beautiful day was painful and rigorous. After several days, I felt like my mental health, and my anxiety was getting worse. The feeling of staying inside my house all day seemed like living in a jail cell and was one of the most awful things that I had experienced in my life.

At the same time, I still had school and the time difference made my experience much harder than I expected it to be. Having to go to sleep during the morning in Korea was very hard as I couldn’t fall asleep. I ran on two to three hours of sleep during school and by lunchtime, I was taking naps and breaks. Keeping up with school work was pretty hard as well. Doing schoolwork while friends back home were going to sleep was a bizarre experience. 

After my quarantine ended, I could leave my house, which was the best feeling in the world. I quickly observed the number of people that were wearing a proper mask when it wasn’t really necessary. South Korea is dealing with this global pandemic very well and I finally understood how and why the country was so successful in flattening the curve. My trip to South Korea was a once in a lifetime experience and I won’t forget about this trip.