A free man in Busan but staying away from trains

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Martin Moodie
Martin Moodie is the Founder & Chairman of The Moodie Report.
Martin Moodie

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I’m a free man of Busan. My latest of many recent PCR tests taken in the early hours of Monday morning came through negative a couple of days later so I’m looking forward to getting out this weekend and discovering the many delights of the Republic of Korea’s second city.

It’s just tipped 6.00 am here. The sun, a beautiful golden orb, has risen above the hills in the distance and is casting a majestic column of light all the way across the bay to just under my apartment at the edge of Songdo Beach.

The jetlag (remember that?) has eased and I’m well and truly back on Asia time and enjoying that fact immensely. Now I feel like I’m ahead of the curve when I start work in the morning as opposed to catching up on what has been happening in our industry’s epicentre each day.

I referenced the movie Train to Busan in my most recent Blog, in the knowledge that some readers might not know what I was talking about (not for the first time). For the unacquainted, Train to Busan is an acclaimed South Korean zombie film by writer/director Yeon Sang-ho, which tells the story of a zombie apocalypse underway with most of the action taking place on a high-speed train from Busan to Seoul.

Hmmm, a global crisis taking place in the travel sector. I’ve heard that refrain before. As could be gleaned from its positive critical reception, Train to Busan wasn’t any old horror flick. The film makes many telling observations about human reaction to crisis.

I quote from William Schwartz’s fine review for Korean movie site Hancinema. “Train to Busan is both thrilling in the traditional action blockbuster sense as well as thought-provoking in the ‘what would you do?’ vein.

“While the zombies in Train to Busan are initially quite terrifying, it soon becomes clear that they have some very glaring, easily exploitable weaknesses. So why do so many characters in Train to Busan, military personnel included, fall victim to the horde? Because they stick to the status quo. They don’t adapt their thinking to the evolving situation. Single-mindedness is both the zombies’ greatest strength and the humans’ greatest weakness, because only one of these groups is designed to use that strategy effectively.”

Now I don’t want to strain the analogy and I won’t ruin the ending for you should you decide to tune in but the parallels with society’s plight, and perhaps that of the travel industry, amid a global pandemic are irresistible. In that context, a key message lies in Schwartz’s conclusion: “Observe how the characters in Train to Busan are mostly useless when acting self-interested, yet terrifyingly effective when acting in concert as part of a mutually supportive team.”

We’re all on a kind of Train to Busan (heck, I even got my latest PCR test at Busan Railway Station). That foul spreading monster called COVID-19 is of course the zombies and we, as individuals, companies and societies are all doing our best to survive the menace. The self-interested (anti-mask, anti-vaccination) imperil us all; the collective, supportive approach (mass vaccination; responsible mask-wearing; sensible inter-governmental approach to travel) is our potential saviour.

The COVID-19 testing zone at Busan Railway Station. Do not get on that train…

As another (gorgeously named) film critic, johnnygayzmonic, says, “We don’t need to know the how or why of the zombies; indeed, the film never truly explains how the infection started. But we don’t need to. We pretty much know the score at this point.”

Oh yes – returning to COVID – we don’t know how the virus started. And, yes, we do indeed know the score.

Watching mass crowd scenes of mostly unmasked football fans heading along Wembley Way at the weekend to the Euros final between England and Italy, I consider the parallel with the movie as enticing as many of those individuals were unenticing. Here is a lack of single-mindedness at its worst, on show instead a terrifying herd display not of immunity but of irresponsibility to self and society. Just watch England’s COVID numbers soar as a direct result of this gross mass stupidity.

Look at France and Greece for more of the same behaviour. In both countries protests flared this week as citizens marched (maskless) in protest over vaccine mandates and new, stricter regulations that protestors allege are discriminatory against those unwilling to be inoculated.

Er, yes, they are. So?

Jamais dans mon corp ne rentrera le liquide de la dictature (‘The liquid of the dictatorship will never return to my body’),” read the sign of one young women protestor in Paris, unmasked of course, as her eyes blazed with the zeal of one changing the world rather than endangering it. Idiocy.

All this because French President Emmanuel Macron had announced sweeping measures to fight the pandemic (and, yes, keep that young woman safe) earlier this week.

The Washington Post reports on the French protests. Click on the image to read the full article.

Macron said that from 21 July anyone wanting to visit a theatre, cinema, sports venue or festival that had an audience of over 50 people must show a health pass proving they were either fully vaccinated or had tested negative.

The same requirement will be extended to bars, cafés, hospitals, long-distance trains, restaurants, shopping centres and planes from 1 August. Macron’s edict had an electrifying effect, with almost a million people, most under 35, booking jabs in the 24 hours after his evening address. Progress. Forced, yes, but progress nonetheless.

Such a ruling, though fiendishly difficult to police, will at least make events such as the TFWA World Exhibition in Cannes this October safer. I do not wish to meet that young protestor nor any of her zombie ilk in a bar or restaurant on the French Riviera. Nor do I wish to meet anyone in, say, the Green Village of the Palais, who has not been vaccinated nor tested. I am not only a free man in Busan but I am also a healthy one. And I intend to stay that way.

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