Webcast: How South Korea is Using Technology to Fight Coronavirus
It seems like a lifetime ago, but in early February, no other country besides China had as many confirmed coronavirus cases as South Korea. Since then, as the disease has spread across the globe and forced billions of people into lockdown, South Korea has managed to control the virus. It has done so without a widespread lockdown, and it has even been able to hold elections without triggering another outbreak. How has the country done it? As Switzerland and other European countries re-open their economies and discuss using contact tracing apps and other measures, Asia Society Switzerland and Korea Foundation teamed up for a live webcast looking into South Korea’s use of technology in its coronavirus response, featuring Minkyeong Kim of South Korea’s Ministry of Science and ICT, Professor Tai Myoung Chung of Sungkyunkwan University, and Dr. med. Sang-Il Kim of Switzerland’s Federal Office for Public Health.
Our key takeaways
One of the key factors making South Korea’s response effective was the speed with which it was implemented. After a MERS outbreak in 2015, the country had put in place the necessary tools to fight an epidemic already. When coronavirus arrived, it was ready.
Unlike Singapore and several European countries, South Korea does not use a contact tracing app installed on people’s phones. A law passed in the wake of the MERS outbreak grants the government the right to use cellular and credit card data to reconstruct the movements of confirmed cases. These movements are made public. This also creates a very granular view of where in a city or neighborhood there are active clusters.
The government collects and releases a lot of data which can be used by private app makers. For example, a “Mask API” generates real-time information of which pharmacies and shops still have masks in store. According to our panelists, this has increased the public’s confidence and prevented panic buying.
Minkyeong Kim is Deputy Director at the Multilateral Cooperation Division, International Cooperation Bureau, Ministry of Science and ICT of the Republic of Korea. She began her career as civil servant in 2018, and graduated from the Korea university majoring in economics.
Prof. Tai Myoung Chung has been a faculty member of the College of Computing at Sungkyunkwan University (SKKU) in Korea since 1995. His research interests focus on data security, digital therapeutics, and services in Next Generation Network. His research started as a staff scientist of the network technology department at Bolt Beranek & Newman Labs., USA. He received his Ph.D. degree from Purdue University majoring in computer engineering. He has published ten technical books and over 500 refereed research papers.