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 University, 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 of 2020. Initially, South Korea was one of the few hotspots of the coronavirus starting from late March of 2020. 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 are now in the range of 500-700 cases per day which is considerably lower compared to the United States and most European countries. When you walk down the street in Seoul, close to 95% of people will be wearing COVID masks in Korea. Add this to the fact that South Korea is now slowly rolling out vaccinations. Over a million South Koreans have received the first shot of a coronavirus vaccine since February of 2021. Therefore, it is only a matter of time before businesses are running at full strength. However, there are still strict restrictions in South Korea. For example, currently, private gatherings of more than 4 people are not allowed.

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

As we move on to the 3rd quarter of 2021, here are some things you should expect to see 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. This means that tenets will be harder and harder to find. The added benefits of joining communities like WeWork and FastFive were their community events and networking which will not open up anytime soon. 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. Events and conferences that brought in international consumers will be now all going virtual for at least the end of 2021.
  • 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. This will continue until there all South Koreans and foreigners are vaccinated. Once vaccinated they will need to show proof in the form of digital certificates or paperwork. However, with so many variants, wearing masks will still be the norm and probably a requirement.
  • 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. This means that the larger chains that had the funds to survive the pandemic will be the ones benefiting the most.
  • There will be far fewer events in Korea. We are not talking about just events and conferences. 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. As more and more businesses die out, unemployment is sure to rise. South Korea has always been an innovator of social reform programs and they could be one of the first countries to implement a UBI for the whole country.

Seoul Moving Forward After COVID-19

South Korea has not been impacted as much 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. Will the COVID-19 vaccine allow this to happen? No matter if a vast majority of Koreans are vaccinated, 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. This is why you should expect to see everyone wear one in public spaces for many years to come.