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How I Ate My Way Through 14 Days in a Korean Quarantine Facility

Travelers and travel writers have either been sidelined or else have had some extraordinary adventures during the pandemic this past year. James Park went to South Korea to visit his parents in December, and was obliged to spend 14 days in quarantine before he could join his family. He was not allowed to leave his room at the facility, and meals were delivered and left outside the door.

Early in the pandemic, the Korean government-issued comfort-food packages for quarantining individuals got global attention, full of delicious instant noodles, canned tuna, ready-to-eat soups, rice, and more. It was an appetizing alternative to the meals other quarantine individuals had — like those poor NYU kids who basically got sad salad and warm orange juice. Rather than stay at an Airbnb or a government-assigned hotel, I’d chosen to quarantine at a resort owned by POSCO, the company my dad works for. It had temporarily been transformed into a quarantine facility — equipped with a cafeteria at which I can’t eat — for employees and their families.

The food rules are simple: It comes three times a day in bento box form, called dosirak in South Korea, and is left on top of the chair outside my room. Staff will call when the food is ready, and I can open the door to pick it up — the only time I’m allowed to open the door during the quarantine.

His quarters were Spartan, but he had internet communication and a nice ocean view. Park was fortunate to have a steady supply of meals from the resort, supplemented by deliveries from his parents and from local restaurants, so his diary of that period focuses mostly on the food he ate during his two-week stay. It is guaranteed to make you hungry.

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