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Asia CommentTaipan

Korea quarantine: a test of mettle


What happens when you are stuck in a quarantine hotel in Seoul?

By now we have all heard plenty of tales about quarantining, some dreadful and others simply involving spending a week or two in a serviced apartment, without any of the services usually on offer. But a regular in the Captain’s Bar gave me the chills the other day when telling me about his experience in Korea.

The setting was dire — scant furniture, cold food and no booze. Quarantine in Seoul is a gamble, apparently, with the facilities ranging from five star hotels to something akin to abandoned military barracks. You don't know what you'll get until you're dropped off at your temporary residence, directly from the airport.

This poor chap initially felt lucky when his shuttle bus rolled up to a four star hotel. But he soon discovered that when the government takes over your lodgings, you can discount at least two of those stars.

Three meals a day? Sure. But they were all cooked off-site and delivered cold. Shocked at first, he called the front desk to enquire. They laughed at his question.

However, what really sent a shiver down my spine was what was confiscated. This chap said that when he tried to get some necessities delivered by a local pal, the parcel turned up at his door containing nothing but snacks, cup noodles and tea bags. Tacked on top was a note listing the withheld items: a six pack of beer, a bottle of whiskey and a mug.

It turns out that you can’t have anything in a container that could be considered dangerous, such as glass bottles that can be smashed, or metal cans with jagged edges. I suppose a frustrated inmate might break a bottle. But a mug? It could shatter, insisted the powers-that-be. Plastic rules under these circumstances.

I don’t know who they were trying to protect, but I’m sure their intentions were good.

At the very least, It made me feel slightly better about Hong Kong's draconian quarantine. At least there I could sip my whiskey out of a proper glass!

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