South Korea is grappling with the Middle Eastern Respiratory Syndrome (MERS). As of today, there have been 162 confirmed MERS cases, 20 deaths and over 6,500 people quarantined. Although the initial reaction to containing the virus was slow, the local public health authority now seems to have brought the contagion under control.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) has confirmed that the virus is confined to hospitals, and so does not pose a threat to the general public. This was no SARS, but the panic MERS has caused in South Korea has taken people off the streets and had a negative impact on retail and tourism.
This was partly owing to a lack of communication and transparency from the government, which once again brings into question the competence of the Park Geun-hye administration. Its mishandling of the issue is sadly reminiscent of the Sewol ferry disaster in April 2014.
While it certainly reflects poorly on the president, it will, more importantly, hurt the credibility of the ruling Saenuri party, which is preparing for the parliamentary elections in 2016.