Feb. 24, 2022
Korea’s Exemplary Response to the COVID-19 Pandemic: Successes and Challenges
South Korea was early-on considered a model of pandemic management during the COVID-19 crisis. Considering South Korea’s proximity to China, it is no surprise that it was one of the first countries to be affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. As of May 2021, the South Korean government reports that there were 136,467 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the country since the outbreak, of which 1,934 patients died. The impact of the crisis on South Korea’s health system had therefore been limited. In comparison, Japan reported 718,864 confirmed cases of COVID-19 with 12,312 casualties, as reported to the World Health Organization (WHO). This is despite the fact that South Korea experienced its first outbreak in February 2020, only one month after the first case of COVID-19 was reported in the country. South Korean authorities responded very quickly to this first outbreak, taking public safety measures that were comparatively mild compared to China’s swift but repressive response, or Europe or the United States’ successive, and yet much less effective, nation-wide or region-wide lockdowns. South Korea’s effective response to the COVID-19 pandemic has combined technical, cultural, and political factors. It can be differentiated from neighboring countries’ approaches, including those that have obtained similarly good results, but there might also be some common policy responses across countries such as Thailand, Taiwan, Vietnam, or New Zealand.