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Spring flowers to be plowed up to keep picnickers away

People taking a walk at a public park in Busan enjoying rape flowers and cherry blossoms. Yonhap
People taking a walk at a public park in Busan enjoying rape flowers and cherry blossoms. Yonhap

Drastic measures are being taken in some parts of South Korea to keep social distancing going, including plowing up spring flowers that draw picnickers.

The southern resort island of Jeju, which in normal times would be brimming with tourists enjoying the season’s change, plans to do away with the massive blossom lining a road in a small village of Gasi-ri.

Villagers asked for their earlier removal, fearing they would draw crowds of spectators potentially carrying the novel coronavirus.

Rape flowers and cherry blossoms make Noksan Road among the 100 beautiful roads chosen by the state tourism board. In previous years, rape plants were plowed up after flowers withered and the annual flower festival ended.

The move comes as Jeju residents’ anxiety is growing over outside visitors who they see as a potential threat to the island’s efforts to keep the virus away, closing schools and canceling festivals.

Earlier this week, the provincial government sued two travelers for over 130 million won in damages, accusing them of touring the region despite knowing they might be infected with COVID-19.

Spring picnickers are a concern for other regions as well.

The capital Seoul decided to close public parking lots along the riverside parks this weekend and the next, in a preemptive action to keep crowds from gathering for cherry blossoms viewing in the Yeouido area.

“Please skip cherry blossom viewing this year and continue distancing,” Shin Yong-mok from Seoul Metropolitan Government made a plea.

The Korea Centers for Disease Control’s social distancing guidelines do not restrict activities in open-air spaces where a 2-meter distance can be observed, but the agency still says people should take caution when using public facilities such as toilet.

Although its total accumulated confirmed cases of COVID-19 approaches 10,000, South Korea is sticking to its policy of no lockdowns or stay-at-home orders, asking the public’s voluntary participation in the virus fight.

From news reports (