South Korea, COVID-19, Centralized Public Health, Public Health, CDC


The COVID-19 pandemic revealed stark differences in governmental preparedness across the globe. The United States, once thought of as a global leader in public health, had the theoretical skill and efficiency to handle the pandemic but failed to utilize those skills and resources during an actual health crisis. In the spring of 2020, everyone watched the U.S.’s reaction to the unfolding of the COVID-19 pandemic due to its historic placeholder as a global leader and innovator. However, the performance of the U.S. in response to the global pandemic disappointed both global commentators and U.S. citizens. This paper will compare the COVID-19 response in South Korea to the COVID-19 response in the United States. This paper will also address potential legal issues with employing South Korean tactics in the U.S. due to the following issues: (1) the highly valued individual rights found throughout American culture; (2) the privacy protections provided by the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA); (3) the subsequent electronic privacy protections provided by the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act (HITECH); and (4) the heavy politicization of the COVID-19 virus in U.S. politics. Finally, this paper will offer suggestions as to potential legislative and technological strategies that the U.S. might be able to borrow from South Korea in order to improve its response to future pandemics. These strategies include implementing a centralized public health system, funding and refunding of government agencies whose purpose is preparing for future public health crises, as well as implementing technological innovations that will assist in the tracking and monitoring of infected individuals.