Categorized | slider, South Korea

Residual Mistrust in the Government Emerges

This briefing comes from Korea View, a weekly newsletter published by the Korea Economic Institute. Korea View aims to cover developments that reveal trends on the Korean Peninsula but receive little attention in the United States. If you would like to sign up, please find the online form here.

What Happened

  • There is growing anxiety around the new flu vaccine after the deaths of at least 13 people who received shots.
  • These concerns led to the Ministry of Food and Drug and Safety recalling 615,000 doses of flu vaccines.
  • Nonetheless, South Korean authorities refused to suspend the country’s seasonal inoculation program, citing no causal links between flu shots and recent deaths.

Implications: Despite the South Korean government’s prompt response to the COVID-19 outbreak, public confidence in its public health policy remains fragile. The flu vaccine program failed to meet the heightened expectations set by the country’s successful mobilization of resources to manufacture and distribute COVID-19 test kits. This shortcoming may remind people of past cases when the Korean government failed to sufficiently protect the public from both natural and man-made disasters. More presently, the public’s skepticism of the system raises questions on its receptivity to the forthcoming COVID vaccine.

Context: In 2015, the Park Geun-hye administration was deeply criticized for its slow response to the deadly outbreak of the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome. Officials failed to share important information about the disease and its spread with key actors in the public health infrastructure, which led to higher infection rates and more deaths. Beyond health concerns, Korea continues to experience occasional high-profile public safety failures. These experiences may generate concerns that the government’s quick tackling of COVID-19 was an exception rather than the rule.

Korea View was edited by Yong Kwon with the help of Sophie Joo, Sonia Kim, and Chris Lee.

Picture from flickr user Republic of Korea

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