Gripped by fears of the pandemic, in many parts of our world, supermarket shelves are being cleared by a hordes of people panicking, thinking it’s now or never in terms of buying and stocking up.
That hasn’t been the case in South Korea, even with the relatively high number of COVID-19 cases. Choi Jeong-yoon delves deeper to find out what’s behind the contrast. Shelves in Russian supermarkets are left bare.
Checkout lines stretch around the corner in Malaysia. In the wake of the burgeoning coronavirus outbreak,…shoppers worldwide have been bulk-buying daily necessities to prepare for potentially months of self-isolation.
“Things in South Korea seem quite normal in comparison. Supermarket shelves are full of food and other supplies… with no signs of any ‘panic buying’. “When the government declared the highest alert level last month, people seemed to buy more supplies like rice and water than usual,… but that was it. South Korea hasn’t experienced ‘panic buying’ like other countries.”
‘Panic buying’ comes from fears that the supply of necessities will be cut due to a halt in daily lives. “This chaos comes from people’s fear that they’ll be left out and exposed to danger if they don’t follow others. Social media showing aggressive videos and posts of panic buying made the problem worse.”
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South Korea, with fast information sharing and a sense of trust in the system, managed to dodge such confusion and panic. “For many years, consumers have learned that the production facilities and distribution industry can respond swiftly to shortage problems. In the COVID-19 crisis, the government informed the public transparently and provided a top medical and testing system. Without the unnecessary spread of fear, Koreans could maintain calm.”
The expert added the diversity of places to buy essentials is another factor. Korean neighborhoods have convenience stores every 100 meters as well as local supermarkets, and its food delivery culture makes social distancing relatively easy.
“E-commerce platforms are settled in the country, so consumers can get what they need quickly and without difficulty.” Experts warn that panic buying can lead to some groups like the elderly finding it difficult to buy essentials, and say people shouldn’t get swept away in the panic based on what they see online.
Choi Jeong-yoon, Arirang News.