Why are Korean companies copying Japanese products

editorial: Learn from Korea

One can learn from South Korea. VW board member Martin Winterkorn already knew that when he sat in a Hyundai competing vehicle at a motor show almost ten years ago and was amazed. "Nothing rattles there," the top manager from Wolfsburg praised the Korean engineers who managed to adjust the steering wheel silently on the car. "BMW can't do it, we can't, why can they?" The YouTube video has been viewed millions of times over the years. And Winterkorn's question - who, by the way, will have to answer to court in 2021 because of the diesel scandal - is now highly topical in the pandemic: "We can't, why can they?" Why can South Korea for example? The country with a population of 52 million has recorded a total of 26,146 Covid-19 cases since the beginning of the pandemic. This is fewer than Austria currently has active cases (namely 36,989) and much fewer than the 91,895 Covid-19 cases that have been recorded in Austria since the beginning of the pandemic.

South Korea is a good comparative example of the success of East Asia in the fight against the pandemic: a lively democracy, highly urbanized (around 80 percent of the population live in cities, in Austria it is around 60 percent), the population is highly educated (over 42 percent Graduate rate, Austria 21 percent). It can be assumed that a high level of understanding of the natural sciences in society will be of enormous benefit in combating the pandemic. The homogeneity of society, a high level of trust in the state, a long tradition of wearing masks and the rapid and strict isolation of countries through border closings have certainly played a role in the successful fight against the pandemic. Some of this cannot be done in Europe: Colorful, multicultural societies and open borders are part of European identity and history, while Korea - sandwiched between China and Japan - has cut itself off for centuries.

But where one should learn from South Korea is that the country has relied on complete transparency and big data for contact tracing from the very beginning and has made tremendous efforts in testing, while in Europe one country after another is capitulating on contact tracing. Japan, Korea and China have made it to the top of the world by copying successful models from the West and adapting them for their purposes - but they have never given up their own traditions and characteristics. Now it would be time for Europe to put aside its own arrogance as quickly as possible and learn from countries like Korea.