One of the reasons I wanted to describe how Covid had affected Korea and its public health responses is that this has also had an impact on the vaccine rollout. As Korea has been relatively unaffected in terms of Covid, there’s been a certain amount of vaccine reticence. The rollout of the vaccine has also been very slow and that will probably have broader implications for business.
There are a number of reasons for all this. There’s vaccine nationalism. One or two stories about the AstraZeneca vaccine meant that many Koreans are reluctant to take the vaccine and they want to produce their own vaccine rather than importing it.
I think the Korean government initially took the view that the vaccine had been produced very quickly and they wanted to see how it was rolled out and how it affected other populations. They were also generally late to the market in terms of purchasing it. The net effect of this is that only 27% of the population have had their first dose of the vaccine. That’s actually a small percentage compared to other countries.
As I said earlier, Korea is an export economy and depends on its ability to sell its goods in third party countries, while buying components from other countries. That’s been affected by Covid and shipping across the world. Airfreight has become incredibly expensive. I guess with the roll out of the vaccine, when we get herd immunity, it will become easier to do cross-border business, but there’ll be an inertia. It will take business time to recover to its pre pandemic levels.
Regarding best practice, everything’s done by the telephone, email and Zoom, but it’s put companies off doing M&As, for example. I know a number of UK companies that would like to come to the Korean market, but have taken the position that during the pandemic the circumstances for doing so are less propitious. And they’re just waiting for the pandemic to be over.