As ACKNOWLEDGED on quite a few ocassions COVID-19 has changed the DYNAMICS of INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMACY and a TANGIBLE illustration of that would be the SURGING NUMBER of ONLINE interactions as opposed to OFFLINE meetings.
For more on this reality I have our Foreign Ministry Correspondent Oh Jung-hee here in the studio.
SO LET'S BEGIN WITH SEOUL'S DIPLOMATIC EFFORTS AMID THE PANDEMIC.
I hear "K-QUARANTINE" has been the main item on the agenda?
That is right, Seoul would usually prioritize issues such as denuclearization talks with North Korea and its relations with surrounding countries and the U.S., but after the COVID-19 pandemic, Seoul has shifted its focus to promoting its "K-Quarantine" model.
Remember, South Korea was one of the first countries to be hit by COVID-19 -- it saw hundreds of new daily cases in late-February to March. But after bringing that figure down to dozens to a few and successfully flattening the curve, South Korea has been working to share its knowledge with other countries on how it achieved that, while stressing the values of transparency, openness and democracy.
How has that been done specifically?
The government has been holding online web seminars every one or two weeks, involving officials who work in the field and can explain things in detail.
The topic is different every time -- ranging from crisis management, testing and treatment, entry procedures, and what-not -- and anyone can watch it, no matter where they live, across the world. Knowledge sharing through official diplomatic channels has also continued. For example, because South Korea successfully held its general election in mid-April without seeing any spike in new cases, the government has shared its relevant know-how with the U.S. and Central American countries.
AND Seoul has CONTINOUSLY been SPEAKING against the SHUTTING of BORDERS and has INSTEAD been SUPPORTING SOLIDARITY among nations.
Do tell us more.
Right, thanks to the country's successful COVID-19 containment measures, President Moon Jae-in made a keynote speech at this year's World Health Assembly, for the first time as the sitting South Korean President.
And here, his message was that the global community must choose solidarity and cooperation over the pursuit of individual interests. Going in line with that, South Korea led the founding of three international support groups in total -- one each in the UN, WHO, and UNESCO. These to strengthen cooperation in health security while preventing discrimination and xenophobia.
And while encouraging international cooperation South Korea has also been sending medical equipment overseas.
Well, exports of surgical masks had been restricted since March, because it was when the coronavirus pandemic had just started and there was a surge in domestic demand.
Up until two weeks ago, only 10 percent of surgical masks could be shipped overseas, and right now 30 percent of them are allowed for exports. The U.S. and Japan are the largest buyers. But the government did provide them on an emergency basis if deemed necessary -- 3 million masks were sent to China and 2 million to the U.S. 73 types of test kits are currently being exported to roughly 110 countries around the world, which has enabled COVID-19 testing for over 56 million people.
Amid the pandemic face-to-face diplomacy has been halted but Seoul is now cautiously looking to resume such interaction?
Right, earlier this month, Seoul's Deputy Minister for Political Affairs visited the United Arab Emirates to discuss setting up a fast-track entry system for business travelers from both countries.
Now, that was the first time a senior South Korean diplomat has gone abroad since COVID-19 became a global pandemic. Soon after, Seoul's top nuclear envoy flew over to Washington to discuss North Korea with his American counterpart. Of course, speaking online and through phones did not hinder diplomacy to a great extent and it was rather a good opportunity for the governments to prepare for the post-pandemic era. But, Seoul's foreign ministry says, just as essential economic exchanges have continued through exemptions on travel restrictions, Seoul is also looking to resume face-to-face diplomacy with other countries, of course with strict quarantine measures still in place.
All right from South Korea's quarantine model to new trends in diplomacy.
That was our Oh Jung-hee thank you for speaking with us Jung-hee.