Seoul's economy resists Covid. Pyongyang wants the vaccines used by the South

In 2020, South Korea’s GDP contracted by 1%, the worst figure since 1998. Expected to grow by 3% in 2021. South Koreans will start vaccinating in February. Kim Jong-un does not trust Chinese and Russian vaccines, or the domestic one under development.

Seoul (AsiaNews / Agencies) - In 2020, South Korea's economy shrank by 1% due to the Covid-19 pandemic: the worst figure since 1998, at the height of the Asian financial crisis. The central bank said today, underlining that in the current year the country’s gross domestic product should grow by 3%, one of the best results among advanced economies. In East Asia, only China (+ 6%) and Taiwan (4.3%) are estimated to do better.

Thanks to effective tracking efforts and sweeping tests, the South Korean government has been able to effectively contain the spread of the coronavirus. Seoul announced yesterday that it plans to vaccinate 70% of the population by September. The immunization campaign will start next month; health authorities plan to achieve herd immunity in November.

South Korea has secured the supply of the doses through the Covax world program, coordinated by the World Health Organization, and signed contracts with individual suppliers. The first vaccine to arrive should be Britain's AstraZeneca, followed by drugs from Johnson & Johnson, Janssen, Moderna and Pfizer.

According to Daily NK, which cites its own source in North Korea, Pyongyang hopes to start vaccinations by the end of February. In order to access the Covax program, the Kim Jong-un regime submitted a specific request to Gavi, the international alliance that promotes vaccinations in poor countries, and to some European embassies. North Koreans would be willing to use vaccines chosen - but not manufactured - by South Korea, deemed more reliable than Russian, Chinese and domestic vaccines under development.