Park: Fostering Trust in Government During a Pandemic

Special Issue: Pandemic Asia. 2020 July.
The Asia-Pacific Journal | Japan Focus Volume 18 | Issue 14 | Number 10 | Article ID 5426 | Jul 11, 2020
Mit freundlicher Erlaubnis von Japan Focus. 

Fostering Trust in Government During a Pandemic: The Case of South Korea

Nathan Park

With mass-scale testing and extensive contact-tracing, South Korea’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic has been among the strongest in the world. This success has often been credited to the Korean public’s cultural willingness to trust their government and put up with measures that supposedly infringed on their liberties and privacy. While the trust has indeed been important, the reductive attempts to locate the source of the people’s trust in Korea’s Confucian heritage, homogeneous society, or deferential culture are misplaced. Contrary to the orientalist caricature, South Korea’s political culture is marked by low trust in government and deep polarization along ideological lines, making it an obstacle to be overcome rather than a foundation for success. This paper will analyze the measures taken by the Moon Jae-in administration to manage the fractious politics surrounding the outbreak and foster the public trust in the government’s response, and also explore the limits of such measures.

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