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Korea initiates free counseling amid coronavirus

“This is my third week of telecommuting, and I’m feeling down for lack of human communication. Is this enough reason to receive psychological counseling?” is a question one can ask for free in South Korea amid the coronavirus situation.

The Korea Psychological Association, together with the nation’s disease control body, said Wednesday that it would provide free counseling for anyone needing emotional care through the COVID-19 scare.

Some 48 counseling sessions are provided daily, thanks to the voluntary participation of some 230 certified counselors from the association, said Yook Seong-pil, the chairperson of an emergency committee formed within the Korea Psychological Association to deal with the COVID-19 crisis.

“We may consider adding more capacity if requests for counseling increase,” Yook said.

Im Ja-in, a 29-year-old office worker who had to scale back her daily activities during the coronavirus outbreak, tried the line.

“The effect of an understanding voice calmly nudging to hear more about my feelings was incredibly consoling, and somehow my voice nearly cracked telling this counselor about the very normal days I spent at home,” Im said.

Im was among many citizens who have been taking precautions against the virus for nearly a month now -- working from home, canceling all or most social gatherings and feeling stressed over the prolonged change.

“The therapeutic power of that talk was addictive, but because I appreciate these counselors’ volunteering efforts, I would save their time for people more in need than I am,” Im said.

Those wishing to talk can call the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention hotline, 1339, and press 3 to get the number of a counselor.

The session can go on for up to 30 minutes, and each person can call a maximum of three times.

Counseling is available from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., every day of the week.

The Ministry of Health and Welfare also offers counseling services for confirmed patients and their families through the National Center for Disaster Trauma, which can be reached at 02-2204-0001 or 02-2204-0002.

Those in North and South Gyeongsang provinces can call 055-270-2777, and quarantined people and others can call 1577-0199 for healing conversations.

By Lim Jeong-yeo (