American navigates pandemic in South Korea

Mallory Goulette, a former 91 Bravo Wheeled Vehicle Mechanic in the United States Army, has spent a large part of the past two years in South Korea. Her journey navigating the pandemic has been eventful.

“When it spread to South Korea extremely fast, that’s when it became scary,” Goulette said.

Goulette soon had to travel back to the United States. Her tourist visa was expiring, and the Government of South Korea was not extending visas.

“It took over 24 hours to make it to my destination,” Goulette said. “I had to have my temperature taken when I arrived to the airport, make multiple stops so the airline could limit the time passengers were on a plane and go through multiple screenings.”

When she returned to South Korea, she was met with quarantine and confusion.

“I had to quarantine in a government facility for two weeks for $1,400,” Goulette said. “I had no idea where this facility was, what conditions I would be staying in, or if I was going to be able to use my cell phone while in this facility.”

“I was taken from the airport, put in a Korean government bus and taken to a quarantine building. I was given a COVID test and then brought to a room. I was not allowed to leave my room and was only permitted to open my door three times a day to quickly pick up food they set on the floor outside my door. I wasn’t allowed to open my windows to get fresh air and had to keep my blinds closed because of protesters outside the building.”

When comparing measures and protocol to the United States, South Korea has had stricter rules.

“The mask mandate was the most noticeable difference,” Goulette said. “In South Korea, you must wear a mask at all times when you leave your home.”

“If caught without one, you will be fined 20,000 Won, which is the first strike. In the United States they strongly recommend you wear a mask, but they have no one there to enforce it.”

As of right now, the restrictions and mandates in South Korea have relaxed a bit, but not much.

“Everything in my city closes down by 9 p.m.,” Goulette said. “They ask for proof of vaccination to enter establishments, and there are still things off-limits.”

“I have it a little different because I work for the U.S. Army,” Goulette said. “The U.S. Army may relax a few restrictions, but within the month they are all in full force again.”

Now a child and youth program assistant, Goulette is responsible for children on the military base.

“It has made my job a lot harder as we have to constantly wear a mask, our activities are limited, we have a shortage of staff, and our resources are low,” Goulette expressed. “As our children remote learn they come to our facility, and we become their teachers. We are wearing a lot more hats than we normally would have.”

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