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The Peninsula

Government Struggles to Juggle Messaging around the Crisis

Published September 24, 2020
Category: South Korea, slider

This briefing comes from Korea View, a weekly newsletter published by the Korea Economic Institute. Korea View aims to cover developments that reveal trends on the Korean Peninsula but receive little attention in the United States. If you would like to sign up, please find the online form here.

What Happened

  • The government announced that it would provide a one-time voucher worth USD 17 to all nationals above the age of 13 to help with their phone bills.
  • Simultaneously, the government will pay telecommunications service providers USD 784 million to bolster their operations.
  • Current opinion polls show that 58.2% of respondents believe the subsidy is wrong.

Implications: As the pandemic places growing strains on the economy, the Korean government is struggling to balance the public messaging around individual sacrifice and its efforts to bolster domestic corporations. Critics point out telecommunications firms should be competing to lower their fees instead of receiving handouts. They were also critical of the vouchers, which were seen as too little to make any long-term impact on the people’s finances. The South Korean public is expressing growing disquiet around the ongoing emphasis on personal sacrifice while the government appears more interested in shoring up corporations.

Context: Meanwhile, the pandemic has forced the government to soften its posture towards domestic corporations. The economic uncertainty has raised fears that harm to these national industries could have wider consequences on the economy. Domestic corporations have used this environment to their advantage, justifying layoffs without consultation with labor unions and advocating for lower punishment for past misdeeds.

Korea View was edited by Yong Kwon with the help of Sophie Joo, Sonia Kim, and Chris Lee.

Picture from flickr user Jens-Olaf Walter

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