Korea Reopening, what does it mean for your business?
Alex Jensen talks with Rod Rothwell, CoChair of KBLA about what the reopening of Korea means for business, and what we can expect in early 2022.
In the interview, Rod and Alex also discuss:
- The traction koreabizcast has achieved in its first full month.
- How the KBLA and koreabizcast are moving forward in November
- Korea’s first steps towards reopening.
- The movement from online to hybrid and offline events with Korea’s reopening that we can expect
- The road-map to reopening as published by Korea’s Government
- The Apps you need in Korea on your phone to access everywhere
- The need with reopening to switch away from counting cases to a more nuanced view of COVID 19
- How Korea has got to the stage where reopening is possible
- Now that Korea has achieved 70% first dose, what can it do to help other countries with their reopening
- Korea, how is it balancing the need for reopening with human rights
- The importance of trust in the media in Korea’s reopening
Korea reopening, what does it mean for your business?
Alex Jensen: You’re listening to Koreabizcast with the KBLA. I’m Alex Jensen, and it’s Monday November 1st, which means we have officially entered Korea’s 3-stage pandemic transition, dubbed living with COVID-19. On today’s show, we’ll take you through some of the things you need to know if you’re living and working here in Korea, as well as celebrating with this renewed sense of optimism, the direction we’re taking Koreabizcast. Direction, which might also include you.
Alex Jensen: Well, it’s been a big few days for Koreabizcast we just announced a new sponsor Eastpoint Partners last week joining the Four Seasons Hotel Seoul in supporting this burgeoning platform. But it also looks like we have more to announce in the near future. So, watch out for that. But speaking of the near future, it’s now November 1st, so optimism will inevitably be rising about what that means for a sense of normality in Korea. We can discuss that more with KBLA co-chair and Korea resident of more than two decades. Rod Rothwell and Good day to you.
Rod Rothwell: Good day, Alex, how are you doing mate?
Alex Jensen: Well, good. It’s always nice to be able to talk about sponsors. And actually, let’s start by briefly reflecting on that the sponsor developments and what that means the Koreabizcast and the KBLA.
Rod Rothwell: So, the main significance is now we have funding and as of Tuesday, we’re actually going to be able to bring on a community Manager, which is just the most fantastic news. Apart from that, it means that we can now invest in the podcast, and really build a KBLA community and offer the services that we really think they need and to your point about reopening, Alex, the conversations that I’ve been having recently with people who want to be members and want to be sponsors, is all about how can you help us with the reopening? So, for me, that’s the main implications.
Alex Jensen: like reopening as in return to some form of normality.
Rod Rothwell: Return to some form of normality. We can now dream about real conferences, real breakfast meetings, real networking nights, all these kinds of things are now not viable yet but plannable.
Alex Jensen: What does it really mean, do you think to be a sponsor of Koreabizcast?
Rod Rothwell: I guess the main thing it a unique platform that we offer, to talk about the things that are important to you. If I can just go back a week or so back to the financial advice, interviews that you did with Craig Keary, and Toby Walsh, last Wednesday. I think that’s a company ignition, that’s really, really passionate about bringing its product into Korea. And we were able to give them that platform to let people know about what’s happening, what’s possible, and introduce ignition to Korea.
Alex Jensen: I want to say that anyone who’s interested in sponsoring or just offering some feedback, and by that, I mean, we are going through this process of evolution with this podcast, and we want to know what people themselves want. Whether it be for example, you know, in our pilot week, we had headlines, Do you want to bring back headlines? Do you prefer two interviews a day? Would you rather have one in depth interview? Would you rather have something different? This is an opportunity at this point of the process for anyone to have their say, and apart from emailing us at firstname.lastname@example.org, you can search KBLA on LinkedIn and find us there. Rod is excellent at responding via LinkedIn so too will our community manager be and of course Rod, this does all seamlessly tie into the new normal in Korean because we’re also going to be hoping to arrange some offline events, right?
Rod Rothwell: Yeah, so I spoke to two different companies yesterday, both interested in having hybrid events in January. And obviously, we’re going to bring in the Four Seasons, and we’ll hold them at the Four Seasons. But these two companies, one government and one non-government, they really love the idea of having a hybrid event. So, we would meet at the Four Seasons have a great breakfast, and then they would engage in a conversation with you and maybe another industry expert. And in real time we would be hopefully broadcasting and also having a conversation inside the room as well, so those kinds of events are now possible, possible to plan at least.
Alex Jensen: Yeah, let’s just try to briefly clarify what this new living with COVID-19 regime will look like and when you look at the news coverage of this, a lot of it just basically refers to individuals what it’s like to live in Korea, so still going to be wearing masks in public as we have been, except when eating and drinking. This month, we’re going to see the beginning of a 3-stage transition, though, so almost all businesses, and this includes cafes and restaurants can now open for 24 hours a day if they want big news for them and their finances, the exception being bars and nightclubs and other similar entertainment facilities needing to close at midnight. You may also have seen the news that social gatherings have been expanded as of this morning. So now 10 People can gather together in the capital region and 12 elsewhere, these are private social gatherings it obviously is bigger than that for formal events and business events and things of that nature. But if you are planning an event, speak to the venue, and perhaps speak to us as well, we can find out for you. I’ll give the details again in a moment. But things do start to get interesting when we consider that in cafes and restaurants, no more than four of those gathered can be unvaccinated. So, we’ve all become used to showing our QR codes in recent months. Now more of us will need to get used to showing our vaccination status. Some might already be familiar with this COOV app C, O, O, V that Korea launched a while back. It’s available in your usual App Store is based on blockchain technology for security and it’s going to become more of an issue in various areas of life, or being able to forgo quarantine, for example, with international travel and there’ll be more flights available by the way from this month. sports stadia now opening up to the vaccinated allowing people to eat and drink from their seats again, entering the local baseball seasons, postseason and final rounds of the K League. So, football or soccer is also going to be a big one, to go and attend. Eating and drinking in the cinema. That’s a big one for me, and my family has been very frustrating, having to miss out on popcorn and so on. We’ve got gym restrictions being lifted for the vaccinated. Now I’m aware, there has been some confusion of frankly, even just trying to find this information in English. Some of the reporting has looked ambiguous, some of it has focused on very limited applications and you might still have questions I think the best thing we can do rather than try to second guess everybody is again, ask people to email us email@example.com. We will make ourselves that service. I think, among any other questions we can help you deal with, and just email us if you have a particular question, we can contact the local authorities or we can perhaps have the answer already for you. Again, LinkedIn would be another way if you search KBLA because Rod, the business community, it does rely on this clarity, doesn’t it?
Rod Rothwell: Yeah, it really is. What we know about business is that businesspeople are basically very flexible, very agile people. And as long as they know what the expectation is, then they can deal with it. But this ambiguity and the continual changes, and it’s not misinformation, but it’s really poor messaging about what’s possible and what’s not possible. Having said that, when I speak to F&B people, they do seem to be really focusing on this. And they do seem to be really on top of it. I guess it’s the rest of us which need to catch up a little bit.
Alex Jensen: Well, yeah, I think what happens is those people in particular industries, they get direct notifications from the government, and they’ll get them in Korean, and then they’ll translate them for their international staff. But that same information is not broadcast to everybody, you’ll go on different official websites and at some point, you’ll run into a language barrier. Now, the answer might be let’s all work on our Korean, but we have to, as we’ve set out as one of our goals give information in English. So yes, it’d be great if the government could work with people like the KBLA to make sure that information is out there. But failing that, I think, at least to just try to give the opportunity for clarity when people seek it so that they know when they’re arranging a networking event or if you’re a smaller business, you’ve got a pitch to make in a public setting, for example, you might want to just clarify and no, and this will evolve by early next year, things will become even more free than they are now. And speaking of which, Rod, I think there’s a worry about the system collapsing under the weight of new infections. Health experts, for example, have raised concerns we could see 20,000 cases a day here during this transition. And that claim wasn’t just somebody posting on Facebook, although there’s been a lot of that it came out of a forum hosted by the Korea Medical Association last week. Do we need to make a psychological transition Rod, to deal with these numbers and, and factor in not just overall infections? But how many of these are serious cases? How many of them are vaccinated and so on?
Rod Rothwell: Yeah, I think we do and that’s the core I think of living with COVID. That right now, in Korea, we focus on the number of daily cases. However, other countries don’t and every morning, I watch Australian news and they mentioned the top figure very briefly, but then they dive really quickly into how many people in hospital, how many people in the intensive care units, and how many people on ventilators. And that’s the key, they’re really the key numbers, because it once we get therapeutics even better, and once everybody’s vaccinated, getting the Coronavirus will approach something like getting the flu, you know, it’s not there now, and I don’t want anybody to say COVID Just like the flu now. But I think that eventually we will get to that stage that, okay, I’ve got the Coronavirus, I’m going to stay home for three weeks or three days until I get a negative PCR test. And that’s fine. But yeah, focusing on the numbers is going to lead to frustration, I think.
Alex Jensen: Yeah, and we’ve had warnings like this before that haven’t come to fruition, but I mentioned it because it’s come from a legitimate source and these same people think that when we get to 80%, fully vaccinated, we’re also looking at herd immunity, albeit potentially with some limited complications. And we’re not far off and now in the mid 70% range for fully vaccinated population. And Rod, let’s just reflect on that for a second, Korea has raised ahead of many other nations in terms of that status, the goal was just to get to 70 by November, we’ve now well overtaken the likes of the UK and the US, which was so fast to introduce vaccines. I know it’s a different sized population and a more homogeneous nation where people are generally more compliant in a group can you know, when we all decide here in Korea, we’re going to do something most people do it. We’ve seen that I think with adherence to wearing masks as well, for instance. But nonetheless, to pause on that it’s impressive.
Rod Rothwell: It really really is, isn’t it? Like you just think about where we were at the beginning of spring, and we were just each day was just another story of frustration about the government’s inability and to secure doses and its inaction, which was just, you know, driving us nuts. But since what would you say early summer, once we got the supply, you just don’t meet people in Korea who are anti vaccines or who are hesitant. It’s just about the conversation is 100% get these jabs into my arm and I think that’s really impressive. It’s interesting because it’s not like we don’t have diversity in media. It’s just that our media, everybody seems to be on the same page. Everybody believes the science, and everybody wants to get back to normality as soon as possible.
Alex Jensen: I’d like to reflect as well on the status of Korea in terms of standing up to crises we’ve had a fair few over the years. Is there a certain level of resilience that’s been built up here that helps when you are faced with a major national or even global crisis?
Rod Rothwell: Yeah, 100% is new. I think that one of the reasons that Korea is such a fantastic place to live, is the fortitude of the average Korean is just amazing and it’s not just about the leadership, I think Korea has been lucky in that it has had some pretty strong leaders over the years. But apart from that, I think the average Koreans ability to bounce back and ability to just forge ahead, and literally just deal with the problem, wake up the next day and go for it again. It’s pretty amazing. It’s obviously a lot the loser effect where this comes from, you know, it’s about the harsh winters and about the Confucianism and all these other things that I wouldn’t feel greatly qualified to talk about. But yeah, the resilience here is just fantastic.
Alex Jensen: We’ve seen major economic crises affecting a number of nations, but COVID-19 has presented a challenge to the world which has been a pretty harsh wake up call for things like inequality and if you look at the fully vaccinated rate, yes, it’s great that Korea has advanced so quickly. But now, underneath South Korea, you’ve got much of the world, you’ve got a few nations above, but almost everyone else below and many of those nations are at 50% or lower and sometimes much lower for fully vaccinated. In other words, we can’t overcome this pandemic, can we? until we pull us all in that direction. Do you think we lose sight of that a bit too much? When we think of our own resilience and our own attempts to get through this?
Rod Rothwell: Yeah, I did. I was watching, sorry, I was reading earlier this week that they’re about the divide between the developed world and the developing world. And until we can get into this generosity of giving doses to the developing world, then we’re really going to be held back in how we can trade with those countries, and how we can do business with those countries. Because some of the vaccination rates in other developed countries are just, you know, the, some of them are less than 25%, I’ve seen.
Alex Jensen: Even the US for example, you’re looking at the 50% range for fully vaccinated, and they’ve had these available, they’re trying to get people to get vaccinated for a long time. It’s not through scarcity of supply and then you got other countries that don’t have the supply, something not quite right there.
Rod Rothwell: You kind of want to grab somebody by the color and just go. Come on, we’re all, we really are in this all together. And I guess, you know, personally, I just find it very difficult to comprehend. I don’t see where it comes from. But, but that’s me. We need to get jabs into people’s arms. And we needed to not flow down gently to the underdeveloped countries, but to get it there at pace for our own benefit.
Alex Jensen: I will say there is certainly a part of me that is conscious of, of liberty, and we don’t want to necessarily set a precedent. We don’t at all want to set a precedent for forcing people to do things that they don’t want to do. One thing I can say Rod, we’ve commented on it briefly in this conversation already, vaccine passports will make it very, very difficult for the unvaccinated whether or not they’re from a developing nation to continue in the world. You said developing nations may struggle with trade but what about the unvaccinated in Korea, they’ll still be a few of them. The unvaccinated in other developed nations who refuse to have it. It’s going to be quite an interesting and perhaps very worrying social challenge?
Rod Rothwell: They must be just so difficult for the government to know how to message this, and how to encourage people without pushing them. They and I accept your idea that if we push too hard, people naturally push back and that’s a very human and understandable result. So where is this balance of just encouraging and incentivizing? And then, you know, in Australia, they just a couple of weeks ago, they were talking about $300 to get people vaccinated. The idea got quashed, but at least it was aired and what’s the carrot and the stick is not being able to go to work too much to a stick? What do you reckon?
Alex Jensen: It well, people I’ve spoken to. There’s a couple I won’t name names who have refused to get vaccinated so far, they have said, well, as soon as they’re at the point where they’re not able to do things, because they would need to have this so-called vaccine passport. That’s when they’re going to go out and do it. And to be honest, it that doesn’t make a lot of sense to me, I feel like well, let’s say I didn’t want to be vaccinated. For me, that would have to be for a very strong ethical reason, or it would have to be based on a very strong backbone of evidence that if I with my particular condition, had that vaccine, it might be life threatening, let’s say. But the trouble is misinformation and all of those fronts, has perhaps generated fears that are not warranted. And this is again, we started this conversation Rod with talking about information from the government. This is where during the last few years, trust in the media trust in government messages has been eroded to the extent that you don’t have to be a sociologist to realize there’s a huge problem there.
Rod Rothwell: Um. It really is, isn’t it? I think it’s almost an outsider’s view here because this is one of the, Korea is one of the few countries where there is still some trust in the media, and still some trust in government. It’s one of the reasons I really like living in Korea that I can trust. Basically, on some kind of balance in the media, and, okay, the government lies to us, and that’s fine. But not, it doesn’t seem to have the, you know, pernicious of the lies from the government in other countries. How do you feel?
Alex Jensen: Yeah, well, I think we have to almost pick up this whole conversation another time. And I think we’ll have the opportunity to do that with the presidential election. There have been some serious scandals in recent years that have eroded trust in certain types of messages, and around financial institutions, and around conglomerates, and so on. But I do think that what you’re basing that view on is a community spirit that exists here, people will talk about a homogeneous society, and I did earlier in this conversation. But I think what that means and for other reasons, too, we have a community spirit, which sometimes manifests itself as social pressure sometimes manifests itself as holding authority to account and sometimes it manifests itself as really positive social movements that get things done. And that’s what makes living in Korea. Not just interesting, but sometimes really great.
Rod Rothwell: Yeah, really, really great. I love the sense of community here. You know, it’s expressed in the way that we talk to each other. You know, the fact that people in Korea call each other aunties, uncles, big sisters, big brothers all the time, you know, I think it really does make a very big difference.
Alex Jensen: Yeah, I’m still not too comfortable with being called ajeossi. Normally, called ajeossi, when I try to make a joke, which is generally viewed as a negative kind of humor, I don’t know, like a dad joke, I suppose, is the closest English language comparison. Rod, we’ve had a while a conversation that’s gone on a few tangents there. But it’s been a pleasure to have this time to virtually sit down together. And soon we’ll be able to do a lot more of these conversations in person, but I think actually, there’s nothing physically about the pandemic that’s created the need to do this virtually I think it’s actually more an opportunity to have more conversations so, some of these virtual elements have been really helpful and will no doubt continue. Let me wish you a fine rest of Monday and look forward to catching up with you again later in the week.
Rod Rothwell: Yes, mate. Have a great Monday and see you very soon.
Alex Jensen: Well, one more time. Let me also say thank you very much to our sponsors. With today’s episode being brought to you by Eastpoint Partners as ever, it’s been great spending time with you on Koreabizcast with the KBLA see you again tomorrow from 7am Korea time.