Systematic assessment of South Korea's capabilities to control COVID-19

Katelyn J. Yoo, Soonman Kwon, Yoonjung Choi, David M. Bishai

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


South Korea's COVID-19 control strategy has been widely emulated. Korea's ability to rapidly achieve disease control in early 2020 without a “Great Lockdown” despite its proximity to China and high population density make its achievement particularly intriguing. This paper helps explain Korea's pre-existing capabilities which enabled the rapid and effective implementation of its COVID-19 control strategies. A systematic assessment across multiple domains demonstrates that South Korea's advantages in controlling its epidemic are owed tremendously to legal and organizational reforms enacted after the MERS outbreak in 2015. Successful implementation of the Korean strategy required more than just a set of actions, measures and policies. It relied on a pre-existing legal framework, financing arrangements, governance and a workforce experienced in outbreak management.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)568-576
Number of pages9
JournalHealth policy
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2021


  • COVID-19
  • Lessons learned
  • MERS
  • Pre-exiting capabilities
  • Preparedness
  • Response
  • South Korea

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health Policy


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