Implications: Public opinion plays a role in shaping public health policy. The Korean government’s decision to advance a “With Corona” policy in the second week of November coincides with a public endorsement for looser restrictions by that point in the year. This represents a change in both public policy and sentiment since July when the people largely supported more restrictive social distancing measures in response to the fourth wave of COVID. Notably, the decision to loosen social distancing guidelines in November came despite rising Delta cases. Given the government’s cautiousness in earlier waves of the pandemic, public opinion may have helped influence this new direction. High vaccination rates may have also helped overcome lingering concerns among public health authorities.
Context: The Korean Government is also mindful of the economic consequences of long-term restrictions on small and medium enterprises (SMEs). The government had loosened public health measures in July in response to the challenges facing SMEs. Although the fourth wave of COVID led to the imposition of stricter social distancing measures, SMEs have been calling for the Korean government to re-adopt looser policies to bolster the consumer economy. Ministry of Health and Welfare also explicitly called quarantine policies to reflect public opinions.
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.
Korea View was edited by Yong Kwon with the help of Janet Hong and Yubin Huh. Picture from the flickr account of Republic of Korea