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At a crossroads

Sapiens author Yuval Harari predicted that decisions made by governments and their people in the next few weeks will shape the world’s future for years to come. He emphasized the scope of this effect will not be limited to the public health sector but will impact economics, politics and culture. Harari’s view is that today there are two options for citizens of the world — a totalitarian system kept under the surveillance of a big brother, versus a global solidarity led by the people. China was cited the representative example of the former, while Korea was the example of the latter. Korea now has to solve problems on its own, find solutions and provide them to the rest of the international community. Doing so should not be about Korea becoming a driving force, but about contributing to the lives and safety of this planet. To provide bold global leadership, we have questions of our own that need to be answered first and foremost. First, we need to make a choice between social distance and physical distance. In a press briefing on March 20, the World Health Organization made it clear that what we need is not social distance but a physical one. But the term still more widely used in Korea is social distance. The government and the local press should accurately articulate the expression “physical distance” and encourage its spread in society. Language manifests itself in unconscious habits and dominates the mind. Physical distance should be strictly kept. Social distance on the other hand should be worked on together to be narrowed down, so that this society can protect the weak and exist upon active communication. Second, financial authorities including the Bank of Korea should make a decision on whether to push the digital transition of analogue assets like cryptocurrency, or continue its current stance of simply regarding it as a virtual asset. After the coronavirus outbreak, the People’s Bank of China collected yuan for disinfection. In certain regions where risks were high, it took on a drastic decision to destroy them for good. The Bank of Korea’s current stance is that it does not have plans to issue central bank digital currency, but will continue on with relevant research. This should be replaced with a stronger drive to digitize currency to reduce possible health risks for Korean people. Third, politicians should not be questioning the general election’s results, but its history. Harari asks us to choose between a path of division or global solidarity. Politicians should let go of their old thoughts and start thinking about whether they really have the digital capability necessary for Korea to take the lead in this international crisis. Fourth, government offices should decide whether they will come up with perfect policies from a bureaucratic view, or instead focus on sharing the current situation to citizens with speed to find a solution together. It was the Korean people, not the government, who established platforms to understand patients’ trajectories and receive timely updates for a protective mask supply. In the face of unprecedented and complicated issues, the citizens’ collective intelligence will always be faster than a centralized government. Fifth, we need to decide if digital technology will be used to control the people or to protect them. From the “three data” laws and the specific finance law, there should be a profound consideration of the country’s philosophy and direction, reaching down to the level of constitutional law. After the new coronavirus’s spread, Japan is reviewing a revision to its constitution. At the center of global attention, Korea should also embark on stipulating our philosophy and attitude in the digital age in our constitution. This process should be entrusted to the general public. Korea is facing a major turning point in the country’s modern history. We should now gather the courage to greet our future, so that our ancestors’ efforts to protect this country from external forces are not in vain. We should also offer hope to the millennial generation that will graduate to what may be a historic economic recession. Prof. Kim Moon-soo. Head professor at aSSIST Business School and professor of CyyproMBA

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