Assessing the South Korean Model of Emergency Management during the COVID-19 Pandemic

Min Hyu Kim, Wonhyuk Cho, Hemin Choi, Joon Young Hur

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

26 Scopus citations


The COVID-19 pandemic has led to an unprecedented global public health crisis, and governments have implemented various responses with varying degrees of effectiveness. South Korea’s approach, which has involved minimal lockdown in order to “flatten the curve”, and which offers an alternative for many democracies, has attracted much attention. Based on in-depth interviews with public health professionals and policy advisors in government agencies, this article analyses how well South Korea’s response to COVID-19 complies with the expectations of good governance, and assesses the strengths and challenges of the Korean model. Our analysis shows that South Korea has been reactive rather than preventive/passive amid waves of clusters such as outbreaks in nightclubs, e-commerce warehouses, schools, hospitals and religious gatherings. The government has used a range of countermeasures, including contact tracing, diagnostic testing, media briefings and text alerts. At the same time, the challenges for the Korean approach have been concerns about privacy, fatigue over emergency alerts and politicisation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)567-578
Number of pages12
JournalAsian Studies Review
StatePublished - 2020


  • COVID-19
  • Pandemic
  • South Korea
  • emergency management
  • good governance
  • public health

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cultural Studies
  • History
  • Sociology and Political Science


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