Life in Seoul, South Korea After COVID 19 – What to Expect

When you talk down the streets of Gangnam or anywhere else in South Korea, you will notice that everyone is wearing a mask. When you go into any office building, co-working space, department store, or Universities, there will be someone in front of the entrances with a heat scanning camera. Coffee shops and restaurants in South Korea will have sign-in sheets or Naver/Kakao app log-ins along with hand sanitizers near the door or at the cashier counter. This will be the norm in South Korea after COVID 19.

South Korea has been dealing with the coronavirus starting from early January. Initially, South Korea was one of the few hotspots of the coronavirus starting from late March. However, South Korea has been able to flatten the curve of COVID due to its efficient testing, wearing face masks and constant alerts to its citizens via SNS messages.

Seoul Opening up in South Korea after COVID 19

Seoul is a very dense city with a little over 10 million people. However, COVID 19 cases have dropped dramatically with less than a few cases per day. Face masks are not mandatory but when you walk down the street in Seoul, close to 95% of people will be wearing COVID masks in Korea. Restaurants in South Korea have been open for a while now and business seems to be back to normal. Restaurants, tourist spots, and private schools have been affected the most by the coronavirus. With very few travelers coming in from China and Japan, Myeongdong and Dongdaemun have lost close to 60% of foot traffic. Private schools had to close down for a few months and just recently have opened.

South Korea after COVID 19What to expect in South Korea after COVID 19

As we move on to the 4th quarter of 2020, here are some things you should expect in South Korea.

  • Co-working spaces in South Korea will struggle. WeWork and FastFive, for example, will start to see startups in Korea go out of business. In addition, more and more companies and startups will start to onboard remote working which means there will be less need for larger office spaces. Traditional office life in South Korea could change and maybe for the better.
  • There will be a slight shift towards remote working. Now this will be very difficult for traditional Korean companies that LOVE their workers staying late at the office. However, data shows that working from home can increase productivity and more importantly decrease employee-quit rates. Maybe a movement in South Korea of 1 day a week, working from home could actually take off. What Korean company will lead the way in this?
  • As Korean companies get familiar with Zoom and other digital technologies for remote work, there will be far fewer business trips out of and into South Korea.
  • Face masks will continue to be in high demand. You will not be able to go to certain locations without some kind of face mask. It will be socially unacceptable to not have one. The South Korean government has rationed out face masks by allocating two masks per person. This will continue until there is a vaccine for the virus.
  • Restaurants that have survived will start to see their business pick up. This is because many restaurants would have gone out of business which means less competition. Also because more and more Koreans are starting to go back out to dine.
  • There will be far fewer events in Korea. The days of packed baseball games in Korea or K-pop concerts will not be coming back anytime soon. It is going to be hard to convince Koreans to go to events with large gatherings. This could lead to venues having to charge twice as much if they end up spreading out the seats due to COVID. Outdoor gatherings will be more common, but there will still need to be social distancing.
  • The need for a basic income in Korea will start to be a hot topic. For the second year in a row, Gyeonggi-do held their second Korea Basic Income Fair to educate Koreans about the impact of automation and COVID-19 on Korean employment.

Seoul Moving Forward After COVID-19

South Korea has not been impacted by COVID-19 compared to other developed countries. Still, social gatherings to daily life have been affected. Many people in Korea just want to go back to how things used to be. Only a COVID-19 vaccine will allow this to happen and it is unlikely it will come within the next 6 months. There are a number of vaccine candidates that are currently under development and some in the testing stage. Until then, expect Seoul residents to continue to wear masks. Wearing masks in Korea was already a common occurrence due to yellow dust and the poor air quality in Seoul. Therefore mask-wearing has already been a part of Korean culture, it is just that now, everyone will be wearing one in public spaces for many years to come.