Which business sectors will be most affected by the vaccine roll out and why? Will employers be allowed to have access to this sensitive information and how will that have an impact on employment law?

Like I said, Korea as an export economy depends on its ability to sell and buy components. It’s the big companies such as Samsung, LG, Hyundai, etc, that have also been hit hard, but they have the cash reserves to absorb that hit.

Another facet to Korea’s economic response is that it has a debt to GDP ratio of 40%, which is pretty low compared to other economies. Consequently, the government has cash to put into the economy. It’s been able to cut interest rates and it’s provided cash subsidies for SMEs to provide liquidity.

In fact, the government has put in so much cash during the past 18 months that it’s expected the debt to GDP ratio to go up to 60% within the next five years. But in terms of companies that have been hard hit by the pandemic, you’re talking mainly about SMEs. That’s the mom-and-pop shops, the agricultural sector, restaurants, bars, travel industry etc. Those have just been decimated. But again, Korea has the financial ability to be able to provide support, assistance and liquidity to the market. The government announced recently that they’re going to allow gatherings of up to eight people and they’re going to allow bars and restaurants to stay open till midnight.

Overall, we expect some companies to do very well from the pandemic; others will simply not survive.

Regarding privacy issues, Korea has very employee friendly labour laws. It’s very difficult to fire employees. If you make it a requirement for somebody to have a vaccine as a precondition to work, I don’t think that would be perceived favourably in the Korean courts. The issue has not been specifically addressed yet, but it’s a tricky area.

Privacy laws do already exist; it’s the Personal Information Protection Act. They have a very strict approach to privacy in Korea and private personal information is very strictly guarded. But if a company wants to transfer data to another jurisdiction, all they have to do is to get the consent of the customer, which is actually the opposite of GDPR. In the EU GDPR wants to control that data once it’s left the jurisdiction, the Koreans take the view that once it’s left the jurisdiction, they effectively have no control over it.