Jo on the floor :)

[Writing Assignment] The New Normal Is here. Are You In? 생각 thoughts

The New Normal Is here. Are You In?

The 2022 Busan International Film Festival (BIFF) was its first back-to-normal edition since the outbreak of COVID-19. After consulting with the disease control advisory body, BIFF committee decided to allow guests for GVs, most of them being the director and main casts along with moderators, not to wear a mask on stage if they so wished. The size and length as well as the “offline-ness” of the event were the same as before COVID, with a few exceptions of online GVs. The audience was instructed to keep their mask at all times in the theater, but ironically, also allowed to eat popcorn and drink soda during the movie, with the ban on eating and drinking in the theater lifted in April.

The film festival was the first such event that I participated in both as staff and cinema audience. My work schedule was spread over four days with one day-off, and I could add two more vacation days at the end so that I could have a full week in Busan and watch more films for my own entertainment. By the end of tomorrow, I would have watched four short films and 10 feature films, including two feature-length documentaries.

I read the article for the writing assignment while having breakfast at the hotel over three or four days. Every time, it pulled me out of a dream about the film festival and thrust me into the reality of the unended pandemic. Although the specific topic of the article - Long COVID - was not a pressing issue in Korea, reading about it easily brought me back to the reality in which I took extreme caution when I sat next to strangers and tried to minimize in-person meetings and gatherings.

As an incorrigible introvert, I believed I was better off when I spent more time on my own. That may be the reason why I didn’t realize how much I missed in-person interactions. The festival was exciting because I was surrounded by movie fans running around with flushed cheeks, and volunteers who were enthusiastic to help me find a movie for me. I had some direct interactions with film makers and cinephiles, but being in the same room with them just reminded me of what it had been like to live in a pre-COVID world. It was a world where I could choose to be an introvert and to have indirect interactions anywhere at all times. What COVID took away from me was not the interactions I was engaged in but the ones between people around me.

I understood where the author is coming from. I tend to be conservative when it comes to public health and disease prevention. But when the world is determined to move towards the new normal and restore human interactions with the support from a majority of people, it will be nearly impossible for a group of people concerned about Long COVID to turn the tide. To date, we haven’t even achieved the capacity to identify high-risk group for Long COVID. At this stage, given the level of knowledge we have, “You do you” approach is a sensible compromise to the best of my understanding, at least in Korea.

I feel bad for the author and people suffering from Long COVID and hope that the medical community will soon find answers to questions concerning Long COVID. As a healthy young member of society with a sound public healthcare, it was great for me to revisit the past in the form of the new normal in Busan. I may be selfish, but I can’t stop wanting to see the world continue to move on.


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