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K-Pop Singer Jaejoong Says He Has COVID-19... As an April Fool's 'Prank'

Tricking others on April Fools’ Day can be exhilarating and hilarious. When people are caught off guard, they can do amusing things. Maybe they jump or scream or become enraged, only to laugh hysterically after learning they’ve been had. Maybe their reaction is funny enough to talk about at gatherings for years, or the prank went terribly and hilariously wrong. We do it for the exciting feeling that moment gives us and we try to hold onto that feeling. Life isn’t that serious and we can laugh at things.

In a time of such heartbreak and despair all over the world due to the COVID-19 pandemic, April Fool’s Day — a day of light-hearted pranks — could lighten the mood of an otherwise scary time. It could be beneficial for us to try to forget the chaos going on all around and be a little silly for one day. 

But there are some jokes that go too far. 

On Wednesday, JYJ group member and K-pop star Jaejoong announced on Instagram he has the coronavirus (COVID-19), the new-to humans virus that causes respiratory infection and can lead to serious or fatal health complications. He told his 1.9 million Instagram followers he was being treated in the hospital. Later, he deleted his post, because as it turns out, he doesn’t really have COVID-19. It was all an April Fool’s Day joke.

Apparently Jaejoong is not familiar with Aesop’s fable about the boy who cried wolf. For readers who did not grow up with this story, there was a shepherd boy who was bored and called to the village that there was a wolf. There was no wolf and they were not amused by the prank, but he did it again. When there was an actual wolf and the boy tried to warn the villagers, no one believed him. The moral of the story is that if you trick people, they won’t believe you when you tell the truth. But there is a bigger problem the story doesn’t touch. 

Pretending to be sick or hurt is not only harmful because it means others won’t trust you—it’s not funny because there are millions of people actually hurt and sick and dying. To Jaejoong’s followers, friends and family, he was another victim of the COVID-19 tragedy for however long they believed it. They were dunked into a tank of “Oh no, not another one. Not someone I know and like,” and held down just long enough to think they were drowning before being let back up. Is that funny to anyone?

Jaejoong’s joke might have been a funny distraction for him on April 1, but on April 2, we all go back to reality. Life is not a joke, and people are still dying. We are no better off than before, with nothing to show but maybe a few moments to chuckle over and reminisce. Reality is still bleak. People are still angry and scared and confused and desperate.

Sitting here, I can’t think of a single April Fool’s Day prank that produced a funny or noteworthy memory worth writing. What I do remember are the times I have been pleasantly surprised by a friend, loved one or stranger. Despite my memory problems, those moments stick with me, lying in wait for a moment of despair when I can pull one out and remember people are good. When I’m overwhelmed by everything going wrong in the world, I can find comfort in knowing for sure there are people in the world who care about others. Surprising someone with an unexpectedly thoughtful or kind gesture is so, so underrated. The reaction is just as amusing, and the joy created is contagious. The excitement of a prank without the risk of going too far and upsetting someone. 

In 2020, let’s replace April Fool’s Day with Spontaneous Kindness Day. Instead of tricking others with a hurtful lie (like joking about having COVID-19–which isn’t even funny, I might add), do something surprising and kind for someone. The gesture can be tiny or huge; for a loved one, friend or stranger. Let’s show that we are still strong enough to be kind in this world.

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Screenshot via jj_1986_jj Instagram