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Korean 'Baymaxes' volunteer amid Shanghai's virus rebound

Xinhua | Updated: 2022-05-16 09:26
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SHANGHAI -- In China, medics and community volunteers in white hazmat suits are nicknamed "Baymax" after the chubby personal healthcare robot in a well-received Disney animation film. Among the Baymax team combating the strong COVID-19 rebound in Shanghai is Park Hui-jung, who originates from the Republic of Korea (ROK) but feels very much at home in her community.

"I have received help from many people, and it is time to do my bit to, help others," she said.

Park lives in Shanghai with her two children, forming the only Korean household in her community. In early April, when the community began implementing closed-off management measures, Park decided to sign up for voluntary work. She soon became frequent visitor to the 30-odd residents in her seven-storey building, most of them senior citizens.

Every day, she helps collect the household garbage left by her neighbours at their doorsteps, coordinates and delivers medicines and supplies, and guides residents in taking nucleic acid tests in an orderly manner.

"They have been very cooperative with the epidemic prevention and control work and no one has complained or refused to cooperate," said Park. "The staff of the neighborhood committee work hard around the clock, but they always wear smiles when they come to the community. They also wrote thank-you letters to each volunteer."

She added that the locals all appreciate their efforts very much and have not placed any group orders for non-essential items of their own accord, aware that such orders would double the volunteers' delivery burden.

Yao Chenjue, staff member of Huaiyin Road neighborhood committee in Shanghai's Changning District, recalls the hurdles that the Korean volunteer faced in the beginning.

"I still remember the little signs in Chinese that Park printed out on her first day as a nucleic acid testing volunteer, because she was afraid that others might not understand her due to the language barrier," said Yao.

Such challenges were overcome, said Yao, and Park's contribution to the smooth running of the community is greatly appreciated.

Park came to China in 2007, when her husband was sent by his company to work in Shanghai, bringing his family to the foreign city. Fifteen years have passed since they settled down in the metropolis, making it their "second hometown".

Park says she receives plenty of support from her Chinese friends, who have been particularly helpful amid the latest virus resurgence.

"They sent me some kimchi, knowing that my family was running out of the traditional Korean pickle. One of my Chinese friends gave his ration to me when his company was distributing supplies to employees," said Park.

She added that such actions were very kind, bearing in mind that residents were in desperate need of vegetables at the time.

Another Korean citizen who has joined Shanghai's anti-epidemic fight is Park Chang-joo.

He has lived in the city for nearly two decades, doing business in Korean household appliances and the food trade, as well as owning two Korean restaurants.

He doesn't wear a hazmat suit, but many view him as another "Baymax" due to the important service he provides in these difficult times. He runs several online chat groups offering assistance to other foreigners in the city, connecting more than 1,200 Korean nationals scattered across various districts of Shanghai.

His community in Minhang District is close by the Korean street of Shanghai, and thus over one third of its residents are of Korean nationals.

Glued to his phone, he answers dozens of questions daily via WeChat, China's instant messaging application, for his Korean compatriots. The questions are on a wide range of topics, such as how to obtain the latest QR code for nucleic acid testing, or what rules should be followed during home quarantine.

He also deals with emergency issues from time to time, carefully and patiently listening to people's problems as they arise.

One case that stands out for him is the Korean resident who scalded her hand while cooking. The swelling went down after she rinsed the hand with cold water, but one week later, there were still blisters on the skin.

Due to closed-off management, it was difficult for the woman to seek medical care outside the home. She turned to Park Chang-joo's WeChat groups for help, and a local volunteer was able to quickly find the correct medicine and deliver it to the woman's door.

Park Chang-joo says he believes in synergy, and setting up various WeChat groups has allowed personal problems to be solved through collective cooperation and coordination.

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