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[COVID-19: One year on] S. Korea's dramatic digital pivot Updated: 2021-01-22 10:02:46 KST

Not long after South Korea saw its first case of COVID-19 on January 20th last year, it was hit with a large-scale outbreak in late February, forcing a shift to digital, non-contact activities.
With only around one month to prepare, schools successfully kicked off their new semester in April --through online classes.
This was made possible through close cooperation with IT companies.

"At first, we were asked to provide online services for high school students in Daegu, but that got expanded to students nationwide. The pre-existing system, which could only be used by two thousand students at a time, was multiplied to around three million in less than a month. It was unprecedented."

Since then, companies across the country underwent digital transformation --turning to remote hiring, rather than in-person interviews for recruitment.
Firms also scraped face-to-face meetings and opted to use remote working systems, and online conferences.

"Since the pandemic, even small and medium-sized companies and traders have adopted video conferencing systems. We carried out more than 56-thousand video conferences last year, far above the goal of 2-thousand we set at the beginning of the year."

Online shopping also boomed last year amid social distancing rules.
One expert says these trends of online shopping, tele-communication and online classes could outlive the pandemic.

"South Korea's comparative advantage lies in speed and accuracy. The country has one of the fastest internet networks in the world. When COVID-19 broke out, Seoul was able to lead the digital transformation with these advantages. This so-called 'non-contact economy' is here to stay, with merits in reduced costs and shorter transportation time."

The South Korean government plans to invest 13.4 trillion Korean won or some 12 billion dollars by the end of 2022 in its "Digital New Deal" project --
to foster the non-contact industry, and speed up the digitalization of the economy for the post-pandemic era.
Kim Jae-hee, Arirang News.
Reporter : jhee@arirang.com
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