Public Shame, Social Stigma, And The Coronavirus : Rough Translation Public shame is a powerful tool. But how useful is it when trying to curb a global pandemic? Shaming stories from South Korean chat rooms, a Pakistani street corner, and a Brooklyn grocery store.
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The Coronavirus Guilt Trip

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The Coronavirus Guilt Trip

The Coronavirus Guilt Trip

The Coronavirus Guilt Trip

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  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/836549337/836731384" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
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"People who are stigmatized say they're made to feel that they are the disease themselves," said NPR correspondent Anthony Kuhn of some residents of South Korea, where the government publicizes personal data on COVID-19 carriers. Bernhard Lang/Getty Images hide caption

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Bernhard Lang/Getty Images

"People who are stigmatized say they're made to feel that they are the disease themselves," said NPR correspondent Anthony Kuhn of some residents of South Korea, where the government publicizes personal data on COVID-19 carriers.

Bernhard Lang/Getty Images

Public shame is a powerful tool. It can be used to control, to motivate and to deter. This week on Rough Translation, we hear stories from three different countries about the very different roles shame and stigma play in working to curb the spread of the coronavirus.

We begin in New York City, where playwright and professor Elizabeth Senja Spackman wrestles with how to shame people into keeping their distance without telling them she has COVID-19. Then to South Korea, where NPR correspondent Anthony Kuhn explains how public shaming is an inextricable part of the South Korean model of contact tracing. Then correspondent Diaa Hadid takes us to Pakistan, where unemployed day laborers look for dignity despite the shaming tactics of police enforcing lockdown.

Further Context:

  • Google and Apple are teaming up to develop contact tracing technology to help public health agencies track down exposed to the coronavirus. 
  • This Vox video explains what is contact tracing and how South Korea is using it as part of its response to the outbreak. 
  • Hear more from NPR correspondent Diaa Hadid about how the outbreak is affecting Pakistan's poor.