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Andrew Marr interviews Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha

  • Date : 2020-03-30 10:37:49
  • Hit : 7549

Link> https://www.bbc.com/news/av/world-asia-51897979/coronavirus-south-korea-seeing-a-stabilising-trend


Andrew Marr
First, let’s turn to South Korea because they have seen a slowdown in the number of cases and may just be over the worst. How have they done it?  I am joined live from Seoul by South Korea’s Foreign Minister, Kang Kyung-wha. Foreign Minister, thanks for joining us.


Foreign Minister Kang, Kyung-wha
Yes, thank you for having me, Mr. Marr.


Andrew Marr
You have as a country adopted a particular strategy towards this. (Yes.) Just explain to us the basis of your strategy.


Foreign Minister Kang, Kyung-wha
Well, the basic principle is openness, transparency and fully keeping the public informed. And I think this is paying off.  We have very good health care system to begin with. We have a system that is highly wired as you can imagine. And fully utilizing that, we have dealt with this outbreak from the very beginning with full transparency and that’s the way we’ve won the public trust and support for this. And as you say, we are seeing a stabilizing trend. For three days in a row, the number of newly confirmed positive cases is smaller than the number of those fully cured and released.


Andrew Marr
You’ve also got the most extraordinary testing system. You are testing, I think, 20,000 people a day which is far more than any other country of your size. How have you managed to achieve this and why is testing central to what you are doing?


Foreign Minister Kang, Kyung-wha
Well first of all, testing is central because that leads to early detection, it minimizes further spread and it quickly treats those found with the virus. And I think that’s the key behind our very low fatality rate as well. I think our system quickly approved the testing system after the Chinese authorities released the genetic sequence of the virus in mid-January. Our health authorities quickly conferred with the research institutions here and then shared that result with the pharmaceutical companies who then produced the reagent and the equipment needed for the testing. And so, I think our testing is nearly a quarter of a million at this point. 268,000 as of today.


Andrew Marr
That’s remarkable. The other thing that you do of course is that you monitor people afterwards. You are not going into the same kind of lockdown, social exclusion that a lot of European countries are. Instead you are monitoring people by phone app. Again, can you explain why you are doing that and not closing down large chunks of your country?


Foreign Minister Kang, Kyung-wha
Well, I think this is being faithful to the values of our very vibrant democracy which is open and the government fully in the service of the people, and I have to say our public is very demanding and expects the highest standards from government services.  And I think this is the key, the drive of our response to this. We are monitoring very closely the inbound traffic (and) we have also put in place vetting of outbound traffic, so that (not only do) we minimize the risk coming in from the inbound traffic (and) make sure that we do our very best to contain the spread within country, but also (take) steps to vet those with possible symptoms among those who are leaving the country. 


Andrew Marr
The number of new cases is slowing down. Do you think you are over the worst now?


Foreign Minister Kang, Kyung-wha
Well, the peak of new cases was in late February when we had hit over 900 new confirmed cases. That has now come down to 76 new cases as of today. So yes, we are definitely seeing a normalizing trend in reduction of new cases but of course we are not complacent. This is just not about us. And we are taking this approach of openness and transparency not just domestically but to the international community because we are a country that is highly interdependent with the rest of the world. Our people travel a great deal on businesses, on family businesses, on tourism. Our economy depends on this interdependency with the outside world. So, we want to keep the doors open with the other countries. And so, as this disease spreads to many more countries, we are watching very closely, and we are committed to maintaining our open approach. It may not be applicable in other countries with less IT infrastructure and other values. But I think in the end, we have to acknowledge that this is not going to be the last time a novel pathogen becomes a global health threat. So we hope that our experience and our approach and model (not only) informs other countries dealing with this Covid 19 but also (leads) to greater international collaboration for better preparedness when this comes around the next time.


Andrew Marr
As it will in your view, even if you get through this, this is not the end of the episode. This is the beginning of a new way of living, almost.


Foreign Minister Kang, Kyung-wha
Yes. One thing I would also like to point out; as governments, we also have to guard against panic. I think governments have to be cool headed about this and do what we do based on evidence and science, because I think declaration of the pandemic by the WHO risks turning the spread of the virus into a spread of fear and phobia. I can’t tell you how many incidents I get reports of Asians, not just Koreans, being verbally abused, even physically attacked in other countries. And governments have to take responsibility to stop this kind of incident because that is not helpful to generating the spirit of collaboration that we absolutely need to overcome this challenge together, globally. 


Andrew Marr
Indeed, Minister. Thanks very much for talking to us this morning.  /end/