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(EDITORIAL from Korea Times on April 6)

All News 07:04 April 06, 2020

Silver lining in pandemic
:Korea can help other countries fight coronavirus

South Korea is still struggling to contain the spread of the coronavirus pandemic. Confirmed cases totaled 10,237 Sunday with the death toll rising to 183. The Moon Jae-in administration has decided to extend its social distancing campaign, which was introduced March 22, for another two weeks until April 19.

If there is a silver lining in the pandemic cloud, it is the worldwide recognition of South Korea as a model case in coping with COVID-19. Many foreign media have praised the country's fight against the virus. Korea's strength lies in its information transparency, well-placed quarantine and healthcare system, effective testing kits and medical equipment, and civic engagement.

Yet it is too early to tell if the country will soon win the battle with the highly contagious virus. There are still fears about the growing number of "imported" cases from overseas and sporadic occurrences of infection clusters. People are especially concerned about the further spread of the virus after the number of infections passed 10,000.

Some critics have accused the government and the ruling party of engaging in self-praise in a bid to use the viral outbreak to their advantage in the run-up to the April 15 general election. But there is no need to denigrate the nation's efforts against COVID-19. Opposition politicians, particularly conservative ones, are better off giving credence to the authorities for how they have responded to the pandemic.

This is not to say that the Moon administration has done its job perfectly. The government and health authorities have made some mistakes in dealing with the health emergency. They, in fact, took a hit for a lack of early action against the members of the Shincheonji Church of Jesus, a secretive Protestant sect, who spread the virus rapidly in the southeastern city of Daegu. Korea once suffered the stigma of being the country with the most cases outside China, where the new coronavirus originated last December.

In addition, there has been the controversy over the Moon government's refusal to impose an entry ban on foreign travelers, especially from severely affected countries. But Korea has managed the crisis relatively well without the ban and other draconian steps, including lockdowns. Of course, the country could not have fared well without medical workers' dedication and the people's active engagement.

That is why Korea has improved its global reputation and stature in responding to COVID-19. This enables President Moon to engage in telephone diplomacy over the coronavirus. Since talking with Chinese President Xi Jinping, Feb. 20, Moon has had phone conservations with 17 world leaders, including U.S. President Donald Trump and French President Emmanuel Macron. The leaders want to share Korea's experience and acquire its testing kits and other medical equipment.

Moon stressed the importance of global solidarity at the G20 videoconference summit March 26. Now he is pressing ahead with a teleconference of the ASEAN plus Three forum, which consists of 10 Southeast Asian nations, South Korea, China and Japan. If the event is held, Moon can pitch the Korean model and step up collaboration to defeat the virus and minimize its economic damage.
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