Japan is paying attention to South Korea’s COVID-19 response once again. The neighboring country is speaking highly of South Korea’s speedy action to mass infections at clubs in Itaewon, Seoul. Reporting on the mass infection incident in Itaewon, Japan’s Nihon Keizei Shimbun reported, “What Japan can learn from Korea is thorough testing, use of information technology, and the authorities’ kind explanations to the public.” The daily said Korea’s Central Epidemic Control Countermeasure Headquarters gives daily briefings through live TV broadcast where experts give cool-hearted and objective explanations, which helped build the public’s trust in the government.
“The recent figures of infected patients and deaths from COVID-19 in the three countries of South Korea, China and Japan are more controlled than Europe and the U.S.,” Japan’s Welfare and Labor Minister Katsunobu Kato said at a conference call with his counterparts of South Korea and China on Friday. “The implementation of exit strategies will become important, and we hope that South Korea and China share their experiences with us.”
Shinya Yamanaka, Kyoto University professor and Nobel laureate in physiology and medicine, and Japanese actor Tomoaki Ogura have openly claimed, “Japan should make sincere request to South Korea to receive COVID-19 information.” Lots of hate comments were posted on Japan’s online communities around this time of the year in 2019, but there are many positive comments on South Korea’s successful quarantine these days.
However, there is no progress in the efforts for South Korea to provide medical equipment to Japan. Since there are hostile sentiments against each other between the peoples of the two countries following the South Korean Supreme Court’s decision on Korea’s slave laborers, and Japan’s export restrictions to South Korea, Seoul cannot afford to proactively push to address this matter.
Politicians and scholars who are involved in Seoul-Tokyo relations have told recently, “The two countries can find a way to cooperate while overcoming historical dispute in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.” An opportunity often comes at a time of crisis. If political leaders of both countries are ready to make small concessions, Seoul and Tokyo may find it easier than expected to start building up COVID-19 cooperation.