Another outbreak of Coronavirus in Itaewon leaves South Korea on edge once again

After receiving much praise across the globe for their valiant efforts in flattening the curve while avoiding lockdown, South Korea has been hit with another outbreak of COVID-19. In early May, over 90 people have been infected with the coronavirus after being involved with the clubs and bars in Itaewon, a district in Seoul known for its exciting nightlife.

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In the first week of May, a 29-year-old man tested positive for the novel coronavirus after dabbling in Itaewon셲 clubbing activities. He has visited King Club, Queen, Trunk, Soho, and H.I.M. in the district; however, it seems like King Club was where many of the newer cases stemmed from, which is where he also happened to stay the longest.

There has been much confusion over how the man initially contracted the disease as he has not traveled abroad around this time, meaning that it is more likely that he was infected by a local carrier.

The Korea Center for Disease Control and Prevention declared that over 90 patients have been traced back to the outbreak in Itaewon, some of them being foreigners from different countries. About 35% of these cases were also revealed to show no visible symptoms when they were tested, encouraging many who frequented Itaewon around that time to get tested as well.

Officials have taken hasty measures to prevent another outbreak by advising nightclubs and bars across the country to limit the capacity of people allowed in their doors and urging everyone to continue wearing masks indoors. Since the outbreak in Itaewon, 8,500 Korean police officers have taken action across the nation to help prevent the spread of the virus by identifying those who have possibly visited nightlife venues around this time frame. Mayor Park Won-Soon encouraged the people of Seoul to help put an end to the spread by getting tested as soon as possible.

South Korea, in the meantime, has been battling the spread of COVID-19 with aggressive testing and efficient contact tracing, which can identify a case within 10 minutes. The country has been living out the 쐍ew normal where restrictions have been quite loose, allowing people to roam outdoors as per usual as long as they donned a mask and also allowing businesses to remain open.

However, the quick surge of the Itaewon cluster further proves out dangers of a potential second wave for the country. The city of Seoul could see itself with a resurgence of cases as offices, restaurants, transportation lines and busy streets continue to allow a large capacity of people to pass through.

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Currently, Seoul is continuing to track down about 11,000 people who have visited Itaewon in early May to help identify more patients of COVID-19 before another wave of cases comes to light.

Despite much praise across the globe for their handling of the current pandemic, South Korea is still seeing quite a drastic dip in their economy. Experts are saying that the South Korean economy is in its worst state since the 2008 financial crisis, and things may continue to decline as coronavirus impacts the rest of the world.

Because their economy is heavily influenced by exports, the country셲 trade business reported that exports have fallen 27% starting from last year. Imports have also declined by 13%, whereas the month of March saw a 14.5% increase. With the rest of the world enforcing strict lockdowns, the demand for foreign exports have significantly decreased, leaving South Korea in a tough spot with no current projections for recovery.

China, which is believed to be where COVID-19 originated from, also experienced a 10% decline in shipments from Korea. The former country has always been considered one of South Korea셲 biggest trading partners, but due to lockdowns being enforced in China, the demand for foreign goods naturally dropped.

Two of the biggest automotive companies in South Korea, Kia Motors and Hyundai, have also announced that they are suspending operations outside of South Korea and China due to declining demand during the pandemic.

In late April 2020, the South Korean government introduced a third rescue package with the purpose of protecting businesses from failing during this time. They plan to use about 7% of their GDP, 135 trillion won (~$110 billion US dollars) to fund this rescue package and ensure less economic turmoil. However, it is uncertain whether or not this can revive the economy as a whole from a massive recession.

Julie Kim

Asia Journal

(Los Angeles Times Advertising Supplement)