52 Overall Score

South Korea

  • 40.1 Public Health
    Directives
  • 20.6 Financial
    Response
  • 88 Fact-Based
    Communication
  • 40.1 Public Health
    Directives
  • 20.6 Financial
    Response
  • 88 Fact-Based
    Communication

South Korea scores around the median, largely due to its very weak financial policy; its public health score is likely underestimated here, given the data’s limitations to adequately account for the impacts of the country’s advanced contact tracing.

Pre-COVID Conditions

South Korea has average wealth compared to other countries in the Index but scored strongly in every other subcategory.

  • Debt/GDP ratio 37.9%
  • GDP/capita $46,452
  • Gini coefficient (out of 100) 31.6
  • Infant mortality rate (out of 1,000 live births) 3
  • Healthcare access score (out of 100) 85.8
  • Hospital beds/1,000 People 83.2

Government Response

Select a data point for more information
(Data points represent policy level as of Aug 1.)
40.1

Public Health Directives

South Korea’s public health policy scores near the median, with limited testing, limited emergency healthcare spending, and a relatively weak stay-at-home policy, although the data does not adequately capture the strength of its contact tracing and how that helps overcome many of these shortcomings.

  • Stay at home order 0
  • Public gathering restrictions 4
  • School closings 0
  • Public event cancellations 1
  • Testing policy 3
  • Emergency healthcare investments/capita $70.61
  • Travel restrictions 2
  • Tests/1,000 people 0.2
  • Contact tracing 2
20.6

Financial Response

South Korea’s financial response was relatively weak, particularly its very minimal level of income support and small stimulus package.

  • Financial stimulus as share of GDP 3.4%
  • Income support 1
  • Debt forebearance 1
88

Fact-Based Communication

South Korea’s government is strong in this category, as it has mostly not engaged in misinformation and has not limited press freedom in response to COVID-19.

  • Reliance on science/fact based information 1
  • Press freedom 0

COVID-19 Status as of Aug 1

South Korea has consistently strong scores in this category, helped by its extremely low positivity score, suggesting that it is testing a wide range of people, which likely helped it detect new cases quickly and keep its death rate low.

  • Total deaths 301
  • Death rate per 100K 5.9
  • Total cases 14,336
  • Cases per 100K 280
  • Percent of positive tests 0.4
Case Trend Line
Daily cases Level 1 Lockdown Level 2 Lockdown
Date Status New Cases/1M
1 Jun 08 Schools fully reopen 0.87

Differentiating Factors

  • Contact tracing and distancing limited spread: South Korea is widely praised for its pandemic response, which eschewed a lockdown, instead keeping shopping malls and restaurants open by encouraging social distancing and mask-wearing, and implementing an aggressive contact-tracing system which made use of CCTV footage and GPS data from smartphones. Read More
  • Increase in violence over wearing facemasks: Despite being celebrated as an example of the effectiveness of widespread mask wearing, South Korean police departments have recorded an uptick in violence linked to people refusing to wear masks on public transport. Bus drivers have been attacked for requesting passengers wear masks, with the majority of perpetrators charged identified as men in their 50s and 60s. Read More
  • Limited prevention in nighclubs, churches, and warehouse likely spiked cases: A recent uptick in cases in and around Seoul have been linked primarily to nightclubs, church gatherings and a single warehouse operated by Korean e-commerce company Coupang, which has been accused of failing to implement preventive measures and forcing sick employees to come to work. Read More
Compared with Other African Countries
  • 35.3
    China 87,655
    Cases
    61
    Per 1M
    4,661
    Deaths

    China has a weak score, driven by their minimal financial response, and low scores on press freedom and fact-based communications with the public; China’s failure to report testing data and questions over data reliability obscure understanding of its actual COVID-19 status.

  • 90
    Japan 34,372
    Cases
    272
    Per 1M
    1,006
    Deaths

    Japan has a very strong overall score, driven by its generous financial response and a reliance on facts, although its public health policy is slightly below the median.

  • 60
    Taiwan 474
    Cases
    20
    Per 1M
    7
    Deaths

    Taiwan has a relatively strong overall policy score, but does not score as highly as expected due to a lack of lockdown, minimal stimulus, and weak support for debt relief. Given data limitations, the score likely underestimates Taiwan’s very strong contact-tracing policy, which is so advanced that it may have diminished the need for other policy responses.

Further Reading From Foreign Policy

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New Zealand

Statistics and government response factors available on each country profile include:

Pre-COVID Conditions:

  • Debt to GDP ratio
  • Infant mortality rates
  • Hospital beds per 1,000 people
  • Gini coefficients measuring inequality
  • Health access and quality

COVID-19 Public Health Directives:

  • Stay-at home orders
  • School-closing policy
  • Public-gathering restrictions
  • Cancellation of public events
  • Testing policy and rates per 1,000 people
  • Emergency healthcare spending per capita
  • Travel restrictions
  • Contact tracing

COVID-19 Financial Response:

  • Stimulus package as a share of GDP
  • Income support
  • Debt-forbearance

Public Communications:

  • Instances of misinformation by leadership
  • Limitations on press freedom, censorship

Current/Historic In-Country COVID-19 Status:

  • Death rates per 1 million
  • Case rates per 1 million