40.5 Overall Score (down 11.5 since Aug 1st.)

South Korea

  • 31.8 Public Health
  • 8.8 Financial
  • 88 Fact-Based
  • 31.8 Public Health
  • 8.8 Financial
  • 88 Fact-Based

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 Sep 1.)

Public Health Directives

South Korea’s public health policy is relatively weak 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 it overcome many of these shortcomings.

  • Stay at home order 1
  • Public gathering restrictions 4
  • School closings 0
  • Public event cancellations 2
  • Testing policy 0
  • Emergency healthcare investments/capita $71.00
  • Travel restrictions 2
  • Tests/1,000 people 36.7
  • Contact tracing 2

Financial Response

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

  • Financial stimulus as share of GDP 4.6%
  • Income support 1
  • Debt forebearance 1

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 Sep 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 324
  • Death rate per 100K 6.3
  • Total cases 20,182
  • Cases per 100K 394
  • Percent of positive tests 1.8
  • Change in positivity rates +1.4
Case Trend Line
Daily cases Level 1 Lockdown Level 2 Lockdown
Date Status New Cases/1M
1 Jun 08 Schools fully reopen 0.87
2 Aug 22 Large gatherings are banned, night spots and churches are shut down, and fans are removed from sporting events 5.47
3 Aug 24 Schools close and go to remote learning 5.99

Differentiating Factors

  • New outbreak linked to anti-government church: Officials linked Seoul's latest outbreak to the Sarang Jeil Church, which is known for its antigovernment stance. Congregants, many of whom traveled across the country to attend services and political rallies in August, have accused the government of scapegoating Christians as COVID spreaders. Read More
  • Doctors strike as cases rise: The Korea Medical Association coordinated a three-day doctors' strike, with plans for another in September, in solidarity with intern and resident doctors who have been on strike since late August over the government's plans to boost the number of medical students and introduce telemedicine nationwide. Read More
  • 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
  • 33.5
    China 89,914
    Per 1M

    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.

  • 88
    Japan 68,392
    Per 1M

    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.

  • 63.7
    Taiwan 488
    Per 1M

    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.

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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