A new American initiative to develop supply chains outside of China has put Korea both in the driver’s seat and in a delicate position to
South Korea’s Coronavirus Response Leads Testing for the Rest of the World
Before the world can return to normal following the devastating global outbreak of COVID-19, health experts agree that two of the most critical factors to fight further spreading are adequate testing for the virus and a vaccine. While a vaccine may be 12 – 18 months away, South Korea has taken the lead in mass-producing tests for the virus. As a result, it may be helping the rest of the world with this urgent need.
As one of the first nations to be struck with the deadly virus, South Korea – for a time – was the world’s epicenter for COVID-19. The country quickly imposed strict containment measures as a means of halting the virus’ spread, which included extensive testing across the nation. The result has been the testing of more than half-a-million Koreans by mid-April, reaching a peak of 20,000 per day in late February through early March, at a time when many nations had not even begun to implement defensive measures against the virus.
The development of wide-spread testing capabilities has been one of the most significant success factors in containing the virus. Twenty-seven Korean companies are now exporting test kits around the world, producing enough kits to test more than 135,000 people per day. Because the current health situation in Korea is under control for the most part, the country is now focusing on the export of these kits to other countries in need.
The result has been a boon not just for other countries, but also for the economic recovery and future of Korea itself. In March, test kit exports totaled close to $50 million, and will certainly remain high in April and subsequent months as the virus moves around the world. That has led to requests from world leaders in desperate need of additional testing capacity for their own citizens.
Perhaps the most prominent of those was a call from President Trump to South Korean President Moon Jae-in in late March asking for assistance with medical supplies. The Korean medical manufacturer Seegene is providing more than 20,000 diagnostic kits to Los Angeles, according to one report. Representatives from more than 120 different nations have now contacted Korean officials seeking help for their own populations, with more than a dozen leaders reaching out personally to President Moon.
The Korean government has made assisting the world’s medical needs for the coronavirus a priority. The Korean International Trade Association is focusing on working with Korean companies to develop a pipeline of test kits and other supplies to export where it is needed. Korean officials see both an opportunity and a responsibility in these efforts. The opportunity is to develop an industry that will result in both economic and job growth at a difficult time for all nations. But it’s also a recognition of its dependence of the rest of the world in these difficult times.