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South Korea outdid U.S on coronavirus response

Bryce Luchterhand



The United States and South Korea were both introduced to COVID-19 by single cases on Jan. 19, 2020. The two countries reacted quite differently.

By late January Korea had developed a fast, reliable test. The U.S. approved a test developed by the CDC in early February that proved to be slow and unreliable. By Feb. 29, the U.S. had tested 3,300 people and President Trump told America, “The coronavirus is going to disappear. One day, like a miracle it will disappear.”

That same day, South Korea had tested 12,800 people and was planning to test its 100,000th person. It hit its peak daily infection rate of 909. In March, Korea recognized “community spread” and implemented “test and trace.”

On March 3, the U.S. had identified 118 cases compared to Korea’s nearly 4,000, but by March 18, the U.S. reported 2,853 new cases while Korea reported 93. In early March, while Trump was saying he did not “take responsibility at all,” forcing states to go it alone, the South Koreans were closing their schools and canceling public events in an organized national effort. April saw Trump refusing to take the lead in securing medical supplies, forcing states to bid against each other.

Trump declared himself to be “number one on Facebook” and things went downhill from there with the death rate first falling, then rising back to 1,000 a day, the number of unemployed people rose to just under 50 million, the economy is closing down for the second time and the school year is in limbo. South Korean schools and businesses are open, their daily death rate is often zero, but a testing program persists. The comparison of the two countries magnifies several shortcomings of President Trump, but his failed leadership most of all.