Originating from Asia, it is no surprise that COVID-19 has affected many Asian countries. However, there is one prominent country that has persevered despite the drastic impacts of the pandemic — South Korea. Shrouded in technology, entertainment and education, South Korea has transformed itself from a lower-developed economy to a high-income leader in innovation. COVID-19 has impacted South Korea for better and for worse. Here are six facts about COVID-19’s impact on South Korea.
6 Facts About COVID-19’s Impact on South Korea
- With a strong economic connection to China, South Korea was one of the first countries to report coronavirus cases. Forty days after South Korea’s first case on January 20, 2020, the country confirmed close to 1,000 cases. The cases only increased in number due to inadequate understanding of the severity of the virus. Therefore, after this spike, the country made great efforts to contain the outbreak and educate its citizens. For instance, South Korea successfully implemented mandatory masking and accessible testing as well as advanced contact tracing. Currently, although there were more than 269,000 COVID-19 cases in South Korea as of September 10, 2021, the country has a contrasting number of around 2,300 total deaths.
- Multiple countries praise South Korea’s well-executed plan to persist during the pandemic. Korea is notable for these concepts: early plan, speed and awareness. To begin with, there was an immediate and early response to the first case, allowing for fast prevention. Also, the government focused on moving quickly in implementing COVID-19 regulations and notifying the public with information and safety guidelines. Hence, internationally, South Korea became a top model for dealing with the virus.
- To prevent the spread of the virus, the world and South Korea limited travel. Travel in and out of South Korea decreased significantly along with tourism. The OECD has stated that these financial risks of limited travel can lead to rising unemployment, which can be detrimental to those in poverty. Korea’s exports have reduced as well, decreasing dramatically as China started shutting down certain systems for safety and health purposes. For instance, in April 2020, 24.3% of exports dropped and caused many losses. In response, South Korea developed a plan called the Korea New Deal in order to invest in advanced technology and the well-being of workers.
- South Korea has one of the highest rates of elderly poverty. Most elderly South Koreans sell box scraps, run street food stations and clean unsanitary areas to survive. Thus, the country implemented stronger social protection and stable labor market regulations. South Korea also implemented safe social distancing procedures in 250,000 jobs.
- The eruption of COVID-19 negatively impacted many lives but accelerated research efforts. Multiple health authorities collaborated in private laboratories to uncover the efficacy of contact tracing, rapid regulatory tests and screening clinics. The country attempted several data tests and experiments, and in doing so, South Korea discovered more about the actual SARS-CoV-2 and better prevention methods. Scientific and mechanical technology has also improved for the better and advancements have become more rapid. Therefore, seemingly, COVID-19’s impact on South Korea includes more than direct health-related scenarios.
- Leaders of South Korea prioritize providing the public with current and up-to-date information and distinct guidelines on how to prevent infection. According to Exemplars in Global Health, South Korea was able to respond fast to COVID-19 due to its experience with Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) back in 2015, which presented a similar health crisis. To fight misinformation during the pandemic, authorities are focusing on providing the nation with regular and accurate COVID-19 information.
COVID-19’s impact on South Korea comes with twists and turns, however, although there are many troubles, the country has solutions. History has seen South Korea rise up from its colonization to a booming economy. This East Asian country is now attempting to prevent an increase in COVID-19 cases through a comprehensive plan.
The virus is mutating and the Delta variant is only worsening countries’ conditions. As a result, the mask mandates that South Korea recently lifted are back in place. However, South Korea’s progress and plans so far indicate that it is well-prepared to mitigate any further consequences of COVID-19.
– Minjae Eum