The global community is facing an unprecedented crisis with the
spread of COVID-19. We would like to share Korea's experiences and
lessons learned in our fight against COVID-19, in hope that this
information will help others in their fight against COVID-19 while
minimizing disruptions in our daily lives.
We will briefly cover the current COVID-19 situation in Korea and
elaborate on our response to the crisis based on the core principles
of openness, transparency, and democratic values, as well as our
effective control strategy to test, trace, and treat.
explain our TRUST campaign in depth, which stands for Transparency,
Responsibility, United Action, Science, and Together in solidarity.
The world is a diverse place with many different cultures and values,
but we believe that “TRUST” can be a universal guiding principle that
other countries can apply in their fight against COVID-19.
finally, we will propose that the only way forward to combat this
pandemic is based on a global alliance that requires close cooperation
of every country. The virus knows no borders and doesn’t discriminate
– the world must unite in order to successfully overcome this common
threat to humanity. Since 6 April, the number of new confirmed cases
per day has averaged around 50 per day and about 50% of these cases
involved travelers from overseas.
At the beginning of the outbreak, the exhaustive testing of at-risk
people in the epicenter of Daegu, the 3rd largest city in Korea,
resulted in a surge of hundreds of new cases every day. The Republic
of Korea responded promptly to locate and place all contacts of
confirmed cases into quarantine, and these swift actions effectively
contained the virus from spreading to other regions without having to
lock-down the entire city. This allowed people in other areas of Korea
to continue their economic activities with judicious precautions,
thereby greatly reducing the disruptive effects on the economy and
their daily lives.
New confirmed cases per day have steadily
declined since its peak of 909 on 29 February. Since mid-March, the
daily number of patients who fully recovered, tested negative for
COVID-19, and discharged from hospitals or treatment centers (shown in
red) has surpassed the number of new confirmed cases (shown in blue).
Since 6 April, the number of new confirmed cases per day has averaged
around 50 per day and about 50% of these cases involved travelers from
However, we continue to be vigilant as we are aware
that sporadic spikes and growing cases from inbound travelers can lead
to further outbreaks.
Each country is faced with its own political, social, and economic
challenges, but Korea’s experiences could provide valuable insights
and lay the foundation for effective control strategies that minimize
disruptions to people’s daily lives.
Before explaining Korea’s
response to COVID-19, we would like to put in to context that Korea is
a vibrant democratic society and its economy relies on international
trade and the flow of people, goods and services. Korea has a robust
public health care system which was strengthened after experiencing
SARS in 2003 and MERS in 2015, as well as one of the most advanced
Information and Communications Infrastructures in the world. Koreans
also have a high level of civic awareness which guides their behaviors
especially in times of crisis, actively practicing social distancing
and voluntarily taking necessary precautionary measures.
factors allowed and, to an extent, obliged the Korean government to
adopt a more preemptive, rigorous and innovative approach while
respecting democratic values and maintaining openness and
transparency. Korea’s COVID-19 control strategy can be summarized into
3 main actions: test, trace and treat.
Robust diagnostic testing capability lies at the core of our control
strategy. Our current diagnostic testing capacity is up to 20,000
tests per day, and as of April 7th, more than 450,000 COVID-19 tests
have been conducted. This was possible due to fast-track authorization
of test-kits developed by biotech companies, rapid transfer of
technology to relevant sectors, and close cooperation between public
and private institutions to facilitate large scale testing.
Currently, COVID-19 tests are conducted at 118 testing institutions
across the country, including the Korea Centers for Disease Control
and Prevention (KCDC), National Quarantine Stations, Research
Institutes of Public Health and Environment, and other private medical
laboratories and hospitals.
The Korean government ensured that
testing was easily and readily accessible by the public while the
safety of front-line medical workers were protected by introducing
drive-thru and phone-booth testing stations.
Testing is free
for suspected patients who are referred by doctors, or anyone who has
been in contact with a confirmed case, regardless of their nationalities.
Korean Government is vigorously tracking those who have been in
contact with confirmed cases, utilizing credit card transaction
history, CCTV footage, and mobile phone GPS data when necessary,
within the scope of our domestic law (Infectious Disease Control and
Prevention Act)*. Every effort is made to protect any personal
information, and only relevant, anonymous information is disclosed to
the public, to alert others
that may have come in contact with confirmed patients.
contacts identified through epidemiological investigations are tested
for COVID-19, put under self-quarantine and are assigned to case
workers via “Self-quarantine Safety and Protection App”, which allows
officials to monitor their symptoms twice a day and be alerted when they break
self-quarantine by tracking their GPS.
*Information required by
the public to prevent the spread of infectious diseases may be
disclosed under the ‘Infectious Disease Control and Prevention Act.’
Disclosure is strictly limited to data relevant and necessary to the
prevention of infectious diseases and anonymized to protect personal
information according to the guidelines provided by KCDC.
As COVID-19 infection can manifest with mild or no symptoms, we
prioritize early detection through preemptive screening and rigorous
contact tracing, followed by treatment at the earliest possible stage
to increase the likelihood of recovery. As a result, COVID-19 case
fatality rate in Korea is very low, at 1.85% (as of 7 April).
At the beginning of the outbreak, all confirmed patients were placed
into hospitals to prevent community spread, but we promptly learned
that even the most robust health care system would quickly run out of
capacity. To make sure that critical care resources were available for
those in serious conditions, a Patient Management System was
established, where a network of medical professionals categorizes the
patients into four groups based on condition and assigns them to
appropriate care facilities. To manage the sudden influx of cases, the
government designated 67 hospitals to exclusively treat COVID-19
Patients with mild symptoms are accommodated in
temporary quarantine facilities called Living Treatment Centers, and
checked by healthcare professionals at least twice a day. Patients in
moderate, severe, and extremely severe groups are immediately placed
in designated hospitals based on the category.
The Korean government put measures in place to manage the potential
risk of cross-border traffic, not with blanket entry ban, but with
continuous adaptation and fine-tuning of measures designed to control
and track inbound travelers. These measures include special entry
procedures, self-diagnosis mobile app, mandatory testing, and
self-quarantine for two weeks of all inbound travelers.
measures to prevent COVID-19 from leaving Korea was also implemented,
such as the ban on the exit of anyone under self-quarantine, and
COVID-19 Free Airport Program, which includes a 3-step temperature
monitoring program on outbound passengers.
All of the efforts and measures to combat COVID-19 that we have
covered so far in this presentation were initially characterized into
our TRUST campaign, which stood for:
-Robust screening and quarantine,
Following the first TRUST campaign that represents all specific
measures taken when the spread was at its peak, we evolved TRUST into
a guiding principle that can be applied universally based on all of
the experiences and hard lessons that we learned.
From the early stage of COVID-19, the Korean government tried
to keep the public fully informed. Since day one, press briefings have
been held twice a day with simultaneous interpretation in sign
language. These briefings are live-streamed on the internet
(www.arirang.com) with simultaneous interpretation in English for
international viewers as well. Relevant information is also provide
via mobile apps and text alerts.
Governments should take all available measures to contain the spread
of COVID-19 while mitigating the social and economic risks at the same
time. Aside from vigorous testing, tracing and treating efforts, the
Korean government is implementing expansionary macroeconomic policies
as well as financial stabilization measures worth 100 billion US
dollars to relieve the burden on micro-business owners and the
self-employed and to support businesses faced with liquidity shortage.
In addition, regardless of one’s nationality, the Korean government
provided free tests for all suspected patients who had contact with
the confirmed or referred by doctors and free treatment for all
confirmed patients to leave no one behind in our fight against
COVID-19. It also contributed to effectively containing the spread
through exhaustive testing of all suspected people.
responsibility constitutes another critical pillar to the fight
against COVID-19. The Korean government’s preemptive measures and
transparent communication raised public trust and awareness, which
resulted in an active participation in personal sanitation and social
distancing. It also led to an outpouring of support from volunteers
whose activities range from disinfecting public places to distributing
food and care packages to those under self-quarantine.
United actions by the government, research institutions
and private companies have paved the way for prompt development, fast
approval and mass production of test-kits. It also allowed Korea to
promptly supply test-kits to other countries.
Korea has also
maintained a whole-of-government approach. Since upgrading the health
alert for COVID-19 to the
highest level, Central Crisis Management Committee, chaired by the
Prime Minister and comprising all relevant ministers, 17 provinces and
major cities, has been established to allow prompt allocation and
reallocation of resources for disease control. This has also enabled
us to quickly adjust and fine-tune our measures with minimum
SCIENCE and SPEED
Korean government applied
innovative technologies, such as drive-thru and open-air walk-thru
testing stations, for a speedy response. Recently, Korea also
initiated a prospective cohort study on domestic COVID-19 cases in
close collaboration with the WHO, with the expectation that clinical,
epidemiological and immunological studies may contribute to
international efforts to fight the COVID-19 and provide scientific
grounds for drawing up guidelines and recommendations.
In the spirit of solidarity, nations should work
together to share best practices and coordinate on public health and
financial measures, preserve financial stability, develop cures and
vaccines while minimizing disruption in trade and global supply
chains, especially of essential medical products such as PPE (Personal
Protection Equipment) and test-kits.
Korea is committed to
sharing its information, best practices and lessons learned with the
international community. Korea also stands against xenophobia and discrimination.
The international community is facing an unprecedented global crisis
with the spread of the COVID-19, which has stalled or ended the lives
of those infected by the virus, restricted movement of people, closed
borders, disrupted global supply and distribution networks, and spread
panic and xenophobia.
As stated by the UN Secretary-General, we
are only as strong as the weakest health system. To beat COVID-19 and
recover from the devastation it has wrought, an unprecedented level of
global cooperation and solidarity is needed. No country will be
completely safe until the whole world recovers.
Republic of Korea has successfully managed to contain the initial
spread of the virus and we are actively assisting our international
partners with best practices, lessons learned, data, supplies, and
The Korean government is also holding
bilateral and multilateral telephone and video consultations with many
countries, at various levels and sectors such as Disease Control and
Prevention Agencies, to share information and formulate a coordinated
We are doing our utmost to meet the demand in other
countries for medical equipment and supplies by ramping up domestic
production capacity. Korea has already supplied test-kits to more than
40 countries and is providing other humanitarian assistance to
countries with less developed healthcare systems.
President Moon Jae-in took part in the Extraordinary Virtual G20
Summit on March 27th, chaired by Saudi Arabia, to advance a
coordinated global response.
During the Summit, President Moon
made the following proposals to strengthen the coordination of policy
response to the COVID-19 crisis.
•Sharing clinical data,
quarantine experiences as well as working together towards developing
cures and vaccines,
•Supporting nations with less developed
•Adopting expansionary macroeconomic
policies, strengthening the global financial safety net and working
together for the economic stability of the least developed nations,
•Finding ways to allow cross-border travel for essential
purposes, especially by scientists, medical professionals and business
leaders, to the extent that we do not undermine any one country’s
disease control efforts.
The G20 leaders committed to work both
individually and collectively to protect people’s lives, safeguard
jobs & incomes, restore confidence, preserve financial stability,
revive growth, minimize disruption in trade and global supply chains,
provide support to all countries in need of assistance, and coordinate
on public health and financial measures. We believe such coordinated
efforts will also result in global preparedness against future pandemics.
As COVID-19 began to spread globally, we witnessed instances of
fear, xenophobia and discrimination, including verbal and physical
attacks targeting Asians all too often. As emphasized by Foreign
Minister Kang Kyung-wha in her BBC interview, it is the governments’
responsibility to stop the spread of xenophobia and discrimination,
and work towards forging solidarity in the midst of this pandemic.