“Our biggest fear right now is a super-spreader,” Song told me. This had been apparent in the anti-covid-19 fortifications I had noticed on my way up to his office, which is on the ninth floor. Bottles of hand sanitizer, now present in every imaginable public space in Mapo, from bus stops to bike racks, had been installed throughout the building. A heat sensor had scrutinized me as I’d walked through the lobby. The elevator buttons were covered with antiviral tape.
On one wall of the conference room where I met with Song, a banner reading “Coronavirus Disease Response Meeting” projected a mood of emergency. Before the pandemic, Song and his colleagues had been preparing voting booths for the local parliamentary elections, which are held every four years, in April. But in mid-February, the coronavirus spread throughout the southeastern city of Daegu, and the priorities of Mapo officials changed. “All our administrative power is concentrated on covid-19,” Song said. “You don’t even see any mention of ‘Parasite’ in the news anymore.”