Go to contents

War and epidemic

Posted February. 11, 2020 08:47,   

Updated February. 11, 2020 08:48


The First World War produced the single biggest number of victims in history of war. The death toll hovered above 15 million. It was such a massive sacrifice that changed the mode of life and the tide of history. In 1918 when the war was nearing the end, however, a grim reaper reared its head, taking thrice as many lives as the enormity of the war did. It was the onset of a virus later dubbed as “Spanish flu,” which killed a whopping 50 million people on Earth.

It is a layperson’s guess, not a medical opinion, but in this journalist believes that the flu must have become more potent and pervasive with people traveling to and from different continents for war. Indeed, the Korean peninsula saw a massive outbreak of infectious disease during the Sui-Tang Dynasty War. The peninsula also suffered a nasty epidemic during the Kitan invasion. The Korean Hemorrhagic Fever, which shocked our country in the 70s and 80s, was later found to have been transmitted on rats that tagged along the Chinese troops during the Korean War in the early 1950s. War accompanies two disasters: famine and epidemic. The two are different in origin, but they eventually beget each other by nature. Once a person is emaciated by famine, they become more vulnerable to fatal virus. This leads to a fall in labor force, which by turns cuts food production, further exacerbating famine. War kills people in various ways. This should give any government the ultimate incentive to prevent war.

The caveat here is that prevention requires sacrifice. Th best way to prevent war is not diplomacy but defense capacity. During the Joseon Dynasty era, bulwarks were erected to prepare for war. The bigger the fortification was, the more various regions the recruitment took place in. This naturally leads to a spread of an infectious disease. After moving in the new capital, Joseon conscripted workers from all provinces to build castles and lay infrastructure in the new city, but this gave a rise to an epidemic, which swept across the entire country. Naturally, any suggestion for a fortification or a large-sized construction project faced heavy opposition. But lack of bulwarks invites a different type of disasters. This is reality of human history, so we need to look at the issues of society through the prism of reason, not emotion.