Article ID: CBB803372291

Contact Tracing and COVID-19: The South Korean Context for Public Health Enforcement (2020)


Although South Korea’s response to COVID-19 has received international praise, the nation’s public health policy raises numerous privacy concerns, with a growing number of civil society groups joining the conversation. Following changes to public health law in 2015 in response to the MERS (Middle Eastern Respiratory Syndrome) crisis, South Korea’s KCDC (Center for Disease Control) reconfigured its enforcement practice with measures tied to the movements of infected patients. New laws allow for the use of information communications technology and personal data (cell phone, CCTV, credit card transactions) to track patients, thereby identifying the possible routes of transmission for disease. Through mid-April 2020, this system received extensive praise, but more recently, with the “Itaewon Cluster,” centered in a popular nightclub district, citizens are starting to raise concerns. Itaewon is associated with prostitution due to its legacy of proximity to an American military base, and by extension, the presence of foreigners in general, including LGBT clubs. While contact tracing promises to preserve the anonymity of data, the significant rise in case numbers since May 2020 has resulted in calls for targeting these groups—foreigners, LGBT, English teachers—suggesting that xenophobia and social stigma continue to represent powerful forces.

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Authors & Contributors
Richards, Paul
Keene, Danya
Maddie Bender
Royles, Dan
Soon, Wayne
Anderson, Warwick H.
Bulletin of the History of Medicine
East Asian Science, Technology and Society: An International Journal
Journal of American History
Centaurus: International Magazine of the History of Mathematics, Science, and Technology
Journal of Global History
Social Studies of Science
Yale University
The University of North Carolina Press
Public health
Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19)
Medicine and society
Medicine and race
AIDS (disease)
Rosenberg, Charles E.
Time Periods
21st century
20th century, late
20th century
19th century
United States
Sierra Leone
Great Britain

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