How Korea and the World Are (and Are Not) Fighting the Coronavirus: Amb. Kathleen Stephens and Mark Tokola

March 20th, 2020

On January 27, the South Korean government in concert with private biotech companies went into overdrive to produce effective testing kits for the coronavirus. There were at the time 4 cases in the country, but the gravity of the crisis was quickly understood. 7 weeks later, South Korea had tested well over 290,000 people and identified over 8,000 cases. As a result, there has been a reduction in new cases in March. 

 

South Korea’s actions contrast from those of the United States government - only 60,000 tests have been run as of March 18 - there are 330 million people in the country. As a result of these insufficient tests, there is no way of knowing how many cases are in the United States. And an effective containment policy is difficult to craft. One projection estimated that 96 million people in the United States could be infected in the coming months. 

 

Why was there such a huge difference between the governments’ responses in South Korea and the United States? And what can the world do together to address this crisis?

 

KEI President Ambassador Kathleen Stephens and Vice President Mark Tokola highlight that it was not just technical capacity but political leadership and civic engagement that played a huge role in shaping South Korea’s response. 

 

You can also find KEI Senior Director Troy Stangarone’s recent piece in The Diplomat magazine on South Korea’s preparations for the economic challenges that are expected to stem from the global pandemic, here: https://thediplomat.com/2020/03/south-korea-braces-for-global-recession/

 
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