South Koreans Seeking Transparency Develop MERS Info-Sharing Tools

by JAMES S. KIM | @james_s_kim

South Koreans frustrated over the government’s handling of the MERS virus outbreak have taken matters into their own hands and have been developing tools to help share accurate information with one another, according to Korea Bizwire.

A popular website called MERS Map allows users to browse a map of the country to view and share information about which hospitals have treated, diagnosed and isolated individuals with the MERS virus. MERS Map accepts reports from the general public—these individuals must be logged in with their Facebook profile, and they must provide clear evidence from media reports. Other netizens can flag rumors, and if more than five individuals do so, the piece of information is deleted from the site.

There are talks of developing MERS Map into an app, while other similar maps have also made their rounds on social networks. For those seeking information on the virus itself, a medical industry labor union released a web page detailing past and current MERS virus outbreaks with links to additional information.

Government officials said they would be stepping up their response on Friday, following the death of the fourth victim. Currently, 41 people have been infected, and more than 1,600 people have been placed under quarantine. Precautionary masks are commonplace as more than 1,000 schools and colleges have closed.

South Koreans have largely been skeptical of reassurances from public officials, and they have blasted the government for their lack of transparency and what they saw as an inadequate response. The health ministry drew criticism for taking a while to release the name of the hospital where the first person diagnosed with MERS was treated.

It doesn’t help that public officials are going back and forth. Seoul Mayor Park Won-soon criticized the government for not reporting the first MERS diagnosis of a doctor who was believed to have attended a conference with nearly 1,500 people while infectious. The mayor told reporters on Friday that the city would be “embarking on a war against MERS” and take “swift and stern measures.”

Health Minister Moon Hyung-pyo apologized for causing public anxiety but shot back at Park, accusing him and other Seoul officials of giving out incorrect information that he said would increase public alarm.

See Also


More Reason for Calm Than Panic in South Korea’s MERS Scare

“South Korea’s Tally of MERS Rises to 12”


Feature image via Yonhap/AFP/Getty Images

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