The Newsletter 87 Autumn 2020

COVID-19 in Northeast Asia

Ilhong Ko

Northeast Asia was the first region to experience the fear and uncertainty brought about by the COVID-19 virus. Yet this earlier introduction to the virus means that some Northeast Asian countries have passed through the worst – even though a second wave looms in the horizon – making it possible to look back upon responses to the global pandemic by the various regional governments and societies. Understanding these responses is necessary since not only do they have implications for future public health policies, they also provide important insights into key issues, central to each Northeast Asian country, which have come to light as a result of the disruption of the status quo.

In this issue of News from Northeast Asia, we explore how governments and societies have responded to the COVID-19 crisis in China, South Korea, and Taiwan. In ‘The politics of COVID-19 in China. Examining challenges in social governance and diplomacy’, Woo Park of Hansung University examines how ongoing debates resulting from COVID-19 are now affecting China’s social governance and diplomacy. Jae-Hyung Kim of Korea National Open University maintains, in ‘Mask dynamics between the Korean government and civil society in the COVID-19 era’, that a key factor in South Korea’s successful response to the virus was the belief held by Korean citizens that access to a means of self-protection against the virus is a basic right of citizenship and the government’s acceptance of this duty. In ‘Taiwan, COVID-19, and the fortuitous lack of politics’, Chun-Fang Wu of National Quemoy University notes the various factors that have fortuitously come together to contribute to Taiwan’s successful containment of the outbreak. In the fourth and final contribution to the series, ‘Negotiating the new normal in the COVID-19 era’, Jongseok Yoon of Seoul National University introduces SNUAC’s initiative to launch the Seoul National University COVID-19 Research Network (SNUCRN), a platform for global cooperation and mutual assistance in dealing with the cumulative effects of COVID-19.

Ilhong Ko, HK Research Professor, Seoul National University Asia Center; Regional Editor of News from Northeast Asia