Korea’s approach to fight Covid-19: Cooperation is the key for all
DIPLOMATIC POUCH - Han Dong-Man (The Philippine Star) - May 31, 2020 - 12:00am

In a special speech at the World Health Assembly, President Moon Jae-in said that “sharing information and cooperating with one another demonstrates a power that no virus will ever have a power that only humans possess. COVID-19 is threatening our freedoms, a universal virtue of all humankind, but it is solidarity and cooperation, based on such freedoms, that will prove to be the strongest weapon we have to triumph over COVID-19”.

In a web-like interconnected world, it is indeed that infectious diseases like COVID-19 cannot be successfully solved by individual countries alone. Solidarity and cooperation are unavoidable choices. Koreans and Filipinos have all fought against COVID-19 by refraining from panic buying, voluntarily wearing masks, and keeping their social distance. Each of these individual efforts demonstrates vital components of solidarity and cooperation that will help overcome unprecedented pandemic situations.

Korea had the world’s second highest number of coronavirus cases during the early stage of outbreak. Korea has not yet made a complete victory over the disease, but thanks to early preparations and a robust public health response, based on extensive testing and tech-powered contact tracing, the nation has managed to flatten the curve.

I hope Korea’s accumulated experience and know-hows on the handling of the coronavirus would be shared with other countries and peoples worldwide. Korea is working with the WHO, UN, and other international organizations. To create a forum for free discussions and stronger cooperation on health security issues including COVID-19 on the basis of the international community’s trust in the Korea’s response to the pandemic, a Korea-led “UN Group of Friends of Solidarity for Global Health Security” was launched in New York on May 12. On May 26, we also held a video conference to launch the “Group of Friends for Solidarity and Inclusion with Global Citizenship Education (GCED)” with the aim of discussing ways to deal with such inhumane acts as hate and discrimination provoked by COVID-19 and promoting international cooperation, of which the Philippines is the inaugural member. Additionally, with a view to contributing to the international community’s efforts to fight against COVID-19, the Korean government recently formed an inter-ministerial task-force to systematically share Korea’s response to COVID-19 by organizing a series of special webinars on key strategies, policy measures and innovative technology in the process of testing, tracing and treating COVID-19.

The Korean government has deepened its bilateral cooperation with the Philippines in the fight against COVID-19. On May 22, the Ministry of Patriots and Veterans Affairs of the Republic of Korea provided 50,000 face masks to Filipino veterans on the occasion of the 70th year anniversary of the Korean War. On May 23, BRP Jose Rizal, the Philippine Navy’s first missile-capable frigate made by a Korean shipbuilder, Hyundai Heavy Industries, arrived in Subic Bay bearing a shipment of COVID-19 relief supplies, such as 20,000 protective masks, 180 barrels of disinfectant solution, 2,000 bottles of hand sanitizers, and 300 packs of disinfectant wipes donated by various private Korean companies as part of Korea’s campaign to assist countries that helped it in the Korean War.

Following the Korean government’s provision of Korean-made diagnostic kits ($500,000 worth) of 35,000 tests to hasten the testing of more Filipinos and 950 tons of rice for the humanitarian assistance, the Korean International Cooperation Agency (KOICA) has also provided 200 tons of rice worth $200,000 to the DSWD for low-income and vulnerable households, Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) and emergency medicine worth $50,000 to the Korea-Philippines Friendship Hospital - General Emilio Aguinaldo Memorial Hospital in Cavite, and will be further provided testing booths known as “walk-thru COVID19” to the Department of Health to augment the mass testing capabilities of COVID-19 facilities.

The Korean private sector is also actively participating in our mission to lend a hand. KP Trading and C-SO Funding provided more than 700,000 Korean face masks to frontliners. Companies such as LG Electronics, CJ, PSMC Philippines, and KEPCO Philippines are also actively assisting the local communities with donations of cash, relief goods, and even scholarships.

I am glad to see that many Filipino employees in certain areas of the Philippines have begun returning to work and more businesses are expected to be allowed to resume operations under either modified Enhanced Community Quarantine or General Community Quarantine two months after COVID-19 quarantine restrictions forced nonessential businesses to stop operation. Now both countries, Korea and the Philippines, are gradually passing through a transition phase to return to our normal daily lives. The collaboration between the two countries cannot be emphasized enough in order to prevail over the COVID-19 pandemic, especially during this transition phase.

The COVID-19 outbreak is not over until it is over. COVID-19 is changing the entire world and leads to another B.C. and A.D -“Before Corona” and “After Diseases.” Some predict that 2020 will be the new After Diseases. I firmly believe that together we will triumph over this new threat as Korea and the Philippines have worked together for the last 70 years since establishing diplomatic ties. Through this cooperation we can strongly face the Post-COVID-19 age together, and work toward building a new normal of strengthened partnership.

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(HAN Dong-man is Ambassador of the Republic of Korea to the Philippines.)

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