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The Rise of “Untact Economy”

#Hot Issues of the Week l 2020-03-15



Social distancing is the latest campaign under way in South Korea in an effort to minimize social contact to contain the spread of the coronavirus. As a result, non-face-to-face or untact social and economic activities are sharply on the rise, such as working from home, online shopping and deliveries.

The restaurant sector is reporting a surge in related sales including drive-thrus and deliveries, while job interviews, university classes and export negotiations are also taking place online.

Social distancing is a trend not only in Korea, but is a basic practice encouraged around the world as part of containment efforts.

Economic activity in the traditional sense has usually involved face-to-face contact.

The marketplace is where supply meets demand. Therefore, avoiding going outdoors and meeting people will contract the economy. However, these days, the notion of the online economy is nothing new and is very much ingrained in our daily lives.

Department stores, a leading offline shopping venue, stepping up their online business in recent days is a good example. To address plunging customer numbers, some department stores have focused on their e-commerce channels and results have been positive.

This especially rings true for Daegu and North Gyeongsang Province, the hardest hit regions of the outbreak, where economic activity is literally paralyzed.

Here, online and cyber activities are mounting as overseas travel is blocked with more and more countries restricting the entry of South Koreans. In addition to online classes and job interviews, the most noticeable change can be found in food deliveries.

Information technology firms are also taking active measures. South Korea's number one online portal Naver said it will strengthen support for untact-related technology. For instance, it will introduce a new service where products at offline stores are promoted online in real time.

The protracted outbreak of COVID-19 is changing the ins and outs of economic activity and these changes are expected to stick around as a new trend even after the outbreak finally ends.

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