Economy in ‘Wonderland’ Review
Korea.net’s five-minute video clip inspired me to think about how the world is doing eleven months into the year, and what governments around the world have done to combat the COVID-19 health and socioeconomic crisis. The COVID-19 pandemic has undeniably disrupted all areas of modern life. From the way we interact with one another, for entertainment, with businesses, and across national borders, the pandemic put an abrupt stop to almost all forms of socio-economic relationships.
At the start of the year, for countries in Asia, our geographic proximity to ground zero increased our risk of infections. In particular for tourist destinations like Thailand and South Korea that are popular destinations for tourists, we have undergone and continue to experience a dilemma between economy and quarantine. This applies to both domestic social lockdown and to bans on international mobility.
The economic impact of COVID-19 shutdown is increasingly being felt on economies around the world. However, in the case of South Korea, the country serves as an example of an ‘economic miracle’ in times of crisis. South Korea has somehow defied the trend of economic downtown and revitalized its national economy during the pandemic. Ranking one of the world’s most successful recoveries, we can’t help but wonder how did South Korea manage the COVID-19 crisis this well?
From the video, it is clear that fast policy enactment and response were key factors for South Korea’s successful containment of the virus. The flexibility as well as adaptability of policy makes to externalities are aspects that can inspire policy stakeholders around the world to become more responsive to crisis. Moreover, national policies prioritized the wellbeing of vulnerable groups in Korean society. The emphasis was put on protecting the most socially vulnerable groups, including children and the elderly, as well as small businesses and people working in the informal economic sector. This approach not only reflected the cultural values of family and the collective good but also demonstrates how an ethical society considers the welfare of all of its people.
As we approach the winter season, there is a worrying trend of the virus re-emerging on a large scale basis. For South Korea, although the country also continues to battle against virus clusters, Korean policies can serve as a guideline for its partners around the world to learn from. The video highlights an important aspect of Korean recovery from COVID-19 — technology. The Korean government highlights four areas that constitute its national recovery plan: digital new deal, green new deal, enhancing social safety net, and balancing regional development. These form a future-oriented framework for policy design that encourages job creation post-pandemic to further boost the economy.
From this, it is evident that digital infrastructure is another reason why South Korea was able to effectively and efficiently mobilize both COVID-19 containment and mitigation policies. For example, digital banking allowed relief funds to be allocated to people across the country, who could resume spending to invigorate and restart the COVID-19 affected economy. As we progress into the era of Industry 4.0, technology takes on an even more important role in our daily lives. Hence, governments should also harness the transformative capacity of technology to improve our quality of life, and to better deliver their services to create value for the people.
I am deeply touched by South Korea’s generosity, humanity and solidarity expressed in times of crisis. My favorite line from the video is that Korea does not consider its own success as a happy ending, but engages with other nations to overcome the crisis together in the spirit of a global family. From donating PPEs like masks to ASEAN countries to exporting its COVID-19 knowledge, I believe the world has witnessed the strength and determination of South Korean friendship.
As we continue our battle against COVID-19, global solidarity, hope and friendship are going to be even more important as countries join hands to overcome this crisis together. A wonderland is a place of joy. The Korean ‘wonderland’ is a model from which we can all learn from to restart our economies, embrace the digital age, and instil hope in people’s hearts.