Why this is important to Wisconsin businesses: Virtual education, e-commerce, delivery, gaming, customer service and telemedicine are among the industries affected.

To inhibit the spread of COVID-19, social distancing has become a new norm in South Korea. Many people started to work from home, use food deliveries and/or online shopping and avoid large gatherings, so the use of online platforms has been increasing tremendously. On May 7, the South Korean government announced the South Korea New Deal, which includes artificial intelligence–based remote learning, health care data usage and an increase in so-called “untact” health care projects (untact being a neologism combining “un” and “contact”).

South Korea's economy relies heavily on exports, but exports trended down in April due to COVID-19, especially in the manufacturing industry, according to a Korea Development Institute report. By sector in April, motor vehicle exports were down 36.3%, petroleum products 56.8%, petrochemicals 33.6% and semiconductors 14.9%. With that, South Korea is now seeking to reshape the economy to kickstart new growth.

Artificial intelligence such as chatbots and virtual education and delivery services are some of the new business areas with strong market growth, as well as the e-commerce and gaming industries. Many restaurants have converted to kiosk-based ordering systems that do not require face-to-face contact. Fresh produce e-commerce companies such as Market Kurly, Coupang, SSG, e-mart and others have been seeing tremendous success.

The South Korean government is reviewing restrictions on telemedicine, and has temporarily eased these restrictions in light of the pandemic. Doctors and the Korean Medical Association oppose the shift to telemedicine, arguing that it will harm smaller clinics as patients and only benefit large hospitals.

Nevertheless, many researchers believe social distancing is not just a trend, but is here to stay. South Korea's leading steelmaker is moving toward increased automation by installing a smart system in its steel factory. One of South Korea’s top conglomerates, Samsung, held its first ever online Global Samsung Aptitude Test (GSAT) on May 30 and 31.

Social distancing is becoming the new normal, at least temporarily, not just in South Korea but around the world. Wisconsin companies with innovative solutions in the “untact” sector can be part of this transformation.