Information Technology–Based Tracing Strategy in Response to COVID-19 in South Korea—Privacy Controversies | Global Health | JAMA | JAMA Network
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April 23, 2020

Information Technology–Based Tracing Strategy in Response to COVID-19 in South Korea—Privacy Controversies

Author Affiliations
  • 1University of Chicago Law School, Chicago, Illinois
  • 2School of Law, Korea Law Center, University of California, Berkeley
  • 3Seoul National University School of Law, Seoul, Korea
  • 4AI Institute, Seoul National University, Seoul, Korea
JAMA. 2020;323(21):2129-2130. doi:10.1001/jama.2020.6602

Amid the global coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) outbreak, South Korea was one of the next countries after China to be affected by the disease. Confirmed cases in Korea were first reported on January 20, 2020, and spiked from February 20 to 29, 2020.1 Instead of deploying aggressive measures such as immigration control, lockdown, or roadblocks, South Korea mounted a trace, test, and treat strategy.2 This was made possible by the preparations that the country had made after the Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) outbreak of 2015.

South Korea extensively utilized the country’s advanced information technology (IT) system for tracing individuals suspected to be infected or who had been in contact with an infected person. Such measures helped flatten the curve of newly confirmed cases and deaths around mid-March.1,2(pp4-5) As of April 21, 2020, there had been 10 683 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in South Korea, with a total of 2233 patients who are in isolation because of hospitalization or quarantine, and a total of 237 deaths.3 However, important concerns have been raised over privacy involving the tracing strategy.

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