Analysis. Faced with the health crisis caused by Covid-19, South Korea and Japan have acted differently when it comes to government measures. But the collective and individual reactions of the populations were similar. If neither Seoul nor Tokyo have resorted to total containment, the two countries nonetheless record results of the fight against the virus which may surprise: despite recent phases of resurgence, South Korea had 25,035 contaminations and 441 deaths on October 15, and Japan 91,402 contaminations and 1,650 deaths.
Having learned the lessons of the 2015 Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) epidemic, the South Korean government quickly implemented effective tracing of the origin of the contaminations. Its communication, coherent and simple, facilitated the mobilization of the population. The authorities have also mobilized pharmaceutical companies in order to develop screening tests in record time and thus have a rapid assessment of the spread of the virus.
This tracing of contamination has given rise to concerns and debates on the protection of personal data. Online harassment campaigns against people “identified”, sometimes by mistake, as carriers of the virus thanks to information provided by the authorities have caused tragedies. The data disclosed were therefore subsequently limited to the sex and age of the person, the places visited and the times of passage, avoiding any identification. Thanks to the safeguards put in place, the population adhered to the authorities’ decisions, despite the potential threats they pose to the protection of personal data, and even abuse of power by the authorities.
Calls for vigilance
In the Japanese case, the State at first seemed taken aback and gave the impression of shirking its responsibility. The stubbornness of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s government to maintain the Tokyo Olympics in July is no stranger to this lack of responsiveness: it was only under pressure from the International Olympic Committee that it announced at the end of March. the postponement of the event. Finally taking into account the deterioration of the situation, he declared a state of emergency a week later.
Not having the legal means to force businesses to close, the government, and especially the governors of the provinces, acted by urging the population to respect a certain number of barrier measures: wearing a mask, physical distancing, hand hygiene, teleworking or voluntary confinement, temperature measurement and hand disinfection at the entrance to shops and public establishments. After the lifting of the state of emergency at the end of May, these calls for vigilance were maintained.
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