South Korea’s Response to COVID-19: Lessons for the International Community


Just one week after taking office as the Republic of Korea’s forty-sixth Prime Minister, Chung Sye-kyun confronted one of the most urgent global crises of the twenty-first century: the COVID-19 pandemic.

Among the first countries wracked by this deadly new virus, South Korea acted swiftly to contain COVID-19 and protect its citizens. Prime Minister Chung oversaw the national policy response, which included expanding contact tracing capabilities, devising detailed social distancing and quarantining guidelines, and making public testing easily accessible.

While South Korea has not escaped the pandemic unscathed, this effective response meant that its death and infection rates remained relatively low compared to many other countries around the world.

What informed South Korea’s effective approach to the pandemic? How did its national COVID policy evolve over time? And how might its response serve as a global model for managing the next pandemic?

Join Perry World House and the James Joo-Jin Kim Center for Korean Studies for the Moon Family Distinguished Lecture with Prime Minister Chung, who will share his experiences leading South Korea’s trailblazing pandemic response.

Please note that Prime Minister Chung will provide his remarks via an interpreter. This event will be followed by a public reception at Perry World House from 5:15 pm-5:50pm.


Chung Sye-kyun is a prominent South Korean politician and civil society organization leader. He served as a member of the National Assembly for six terms and was speaker of the Assembly from 2016 to 2018. Appointed the Minister of Commerce, Industry, and Energy by former President Roh Moo-hyun in 2006, Chung took charge of the Republic of Korea’s industry and energy policy and directed negotiations for foreign trade, including a free trade agreement with the United States. In January 2020, he took office as the country’s forty-sixth prime minister, presiding over the national “K-Quarantine” strategy during the COVID-19 pandemic and demonstrating the country’s capacity for prevailing in the face of crisis. Chung is currently an executive advisor to the Democratic Party of Korea and chairman of the Roh Moo-hyun Foundation. He received his BA in law from Korea University, his MBA from Pepperdine University, and his PhD in business administration from Kyung Hee University. This academic year, Prime Minister Chung is a Distinguished Global Leader at Perry World House and the Moon Family Distinguished Lecturer at the James Joo-Jin Kim Center for Korean Studies.


James Y. Victory, Esq. is a former interpreter for the US President. He has also interpreted at multiple Shangri-La Dialogues and during all official visits to the US by former North Korean Workers’ Party Secretary Hwang Jang-Yop. Victory holds a JD from Georgetown Law Center and an MBA from Thunderbird, AGSIM.


Hyunjoon Park is Korea Foundation Professor of Sociology and Director of the James Joo-Jin Kim Center for Korean Studies at the University of Pennsylvania. His research and teaching interests include education, family, and social stratification in comparative perspective, especially in South Korea and other East Asian societies. Park holds a PhD in sociology from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.


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