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Uncertainty of Covid-19: Everyday Lives of Households on Jeju Island, South Korea
Individual Paper Presenter(s)
Youjoung (Yuna) Kim
Johns Hopkins University, United States
Many of the COVID-19 policy measures in South Korea are based on epidemiological modeling that projects infection and mortality rates to govern uncertainty about the development of the pandemic. The public health policies assume the social milieu where these controls are implemented is a neutral environment in which the unknown-ness of the pandemic persists. They are unable to integrate the households’ social conditions that bring about uncertainty and precarity rendered by the spread of COVID-19. Jeju Island, off the southern tip of the Korean peninsular, has relatively few confirmed cases (492 out of 70,728 as of January 14, 2021) compared to other parts of South Korea and Jeju islanders consider most of the cases are driven by visitors from the mainland. Although the number of people who have been in actual contact with COVID-19 is low, the infection has become a real phenomenon to the islanders as the uncertainty about the disease constructs the experiences of the pandemic. The paper examines how the work of time generates uncertainty surrounding COVID-19, which affects household decision-making in managing finances and people’s movement. The paper further explores the ways in which people on Jeju Island adopt and conform to the persistence of the uncertainty. By doing so, the paper argues that uncertainty, in the context of COVID-19, is not unidirectionally oriented towards the future but encompasses the whole duration of time.