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Personal space and social distancing

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By Bernard Rowan

When I prepared for my first visit to Korea, I read a passage in a cultural education guide about Koreans' understanding of personal space. Americans, as readers likely know, have an exaggerated conception of personal space.

The famous but aging children's program "Barney & Friends" featured a song about "personal space." Some Americans take offense if someone stands too close. I'd say that's within three feet. Some feel threatened or challenged. The guide to Korea said visitors shouldn't worry in crowds and Korean public settings where this convention doesn't exist.

I must say after visiting Korea many times, the guide doesn't ring true. I think Koreans care about personal space as much as anyone. Perhaps they're not so passionate or likely to rear up when someone stands close. An exaggerated understanding of space simply won't work on a Seoul subway. However, Koreans mind personal space too.

Recently in both countries, though I gather later in South Korea, the practice of what's called "social distancing" has arisen. Social distancing is........

© The Korea Times