July 7, 2020

Q&A with South Korean Ambassador: How the country flattened the curve

As COVID-19 ravages China, the US and Europe, South Korea has risen to the top as one of the few countries with the most comprehensive protective measures in place for combatting the pandemic. With more than 1.2 million people infected worldwide and about 70,000 dead, South Korea’s decisive response provides a lesson for the rest of the world. In an exclusive interview with Khmer Times, South Korean Ambassador Park Heung-kyeong spoke about how his country successfully flattened its coronavirus curve and how it plans to assist the Kingdom in its fight against the deadly virus. KT: How did South Korea respond to the COVID-19 pandemic? And which of these methods are transferrable to Cambodia’s response strategy? Mr Park: South Korea enforced transparent pre-emptive measures to fight against COVID-19. Anyone suspected of carrying the virus was tested immediately. Once we found confirmed carriers, we turned to technological innovations to enforce extensive tracking and tracing of people who came in contact with the patients. CCTV footage, as well as smartphone data, were combed through. Rapid mass testing was also conducted. Results were out in less than six hours. In doing so, we were able to effectively slow and break the chain of coronavirus transmission. So, we would like to share the general preventative measures we implemented and also share the medical devices and supplies we have to any country willing to collaborate with us. Cambodia is a good partner in that regard. Passengers at Incheon International Airport in February. Xinhua KT: During this health crisis, South Korea has pledged provision of medical assistance to Cambodia. When is the assistance projected to arrive and what exactly does this assistance entail? Mr Park: We [South Korea] are ready to provide medical equipment to Cambodia. We have already launched an $8.5 million project for infectious disease prevention between South Korea and Cambodia. The project will start this year and will carry on over the next five years. This year, the money will be allocated to the provision of medical assistance, such as equipment and other supplies, to the Kingdom’s coronavirus response. Two weeks ago, I also met with a Health Ministry’s secretary of state to discuss this health crisis. KT: Will these medical equipment be given for free or for retail? Mr Park: Cambodia is one of the largest development partners of South Korea so, we will be providing some medical equipment to diagnose or treat COVID-19 under the development cooperation project. We are also discussing which items are needed right now in Cambodia. Our production capacity, as well as the domestic supply and the demand for such, will be assessed accordingly. For instance, as you know, South Korea suffers from [high levels of] fine dust particles. With the fine dust and COVID-19, there has been a shortage of protective masks in South Korea. So, we should assess the situation and estimate how much South Korea could produce to answer to the demand. Health workers disinfect Gwanghwamun subway station in Seoul in February. Xinhua KT: There are Cambodians married to South Koreans, workers and students in your country where the COVID-19 has spread. What is South Korea’s treatment strategy for the infected patients? Mr Park: We do not discriminate patients based on their nationality. If a Cambodian living in South Korea tests positive for the virus, the patient will be treated and looked after by South Korean doctors and the government. Our government shoulders all costs from testing to treating the disease for both Korean and foreign nationals. KT: With the ongoing global health crisis, will existing bilateral cooperation or assistance projects between South Korea and Cambodia be retained? Mr Park: Some Korean volunteers have already returned to South Korea to aid in the country’s fight against the coronavirus. Generally speaking, however, we have a strong commitment to implement the cooperation between the two countries without any interruption. Currently, discussions about the development cooperation project I mentioned are ongoing. We will continue cooperating with Cambodia as planned. KT: How do you think COVID-19 really affects society? Mr Park: I don’t have the necessary expertise to answer that question. But basically, this is a dire situation that humanity is facing right now. I think that for this crisis, we will be able to find a way to overcome it and adjust to a better way of living. That is my personal view.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *