How do we protect the pillars of democracy during a pandemic? This was one of the questions that Minister for Foreign Affairs Ann Linde discussed with her counterparts from the Republic of Korea (South Korea) and Australia during a semi-virtual Democracy Talk organised by the Swedish Embassy in Seoul.
The Embassy had originally planned a Democracy Talk in conjunction with an international human rights conference that was meant to take place in South Korea. But the conference was postponed due to COVID-19. The idea of a joint initiative was born following the publication of IDEA’s high-profile report on South Korea’s parliamentary elections held in April amid the ongoing pandemic. Initially, the idea was to focus on South Korea’s experience of holding a national election despite the infection risk, but the high level of interest led to a decision to broaden the perspective. So the theme became ‘Democracy in the times of Corona’, with a particular focus on how three advanced democracies are dealing with issues related to democracy and human rights.
Minister for Foreign Affairs Ann Linde took part in the first panel discussion with Secretary-General of International IDEA Dr Kevin Casas-Zamora, Australia’s Minister for Foreign Affairs Marise Payne and South Korea’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Kang Kyung-wha. Democracy experts from Australia, Sweden, South Korea and International IDEA took part in the second panel discussion, moderated by Ambassador Jakob Hallgren.
Different strategies to fight the pandemic
According to International IDEA’s report ‘The Global State of Democracy 2019’, Australia, South Korea and Sweden are among the world’s highest performing democracies. But their strategies during the COVID-19 outbreak have varied, which indicates the importance of national considerations. What does this tell us about different political systems and public confidence in them? What will be the long-term impacts of COVID-19 and how can democracy be strengthened in these challenging times?
The event was partly virtual and partly physical, taking place in the Swedish residence in Seoul – transformed into a TV studio for the day – with a small selected audience, while others attended via a virtual platform. Close to 500 people had registered to attend online and altogether around 1 000 people followed the webinar, either live or on YouTube. In addition to questions from the foreign ministers’ countries of Sweden, Australia and South Korea, questions for the panel also came from Albania, Canada, Ethiopia, Fiji, Germany, Indonesia, Iran, Mauritius, Pakistan, Russia and the UK. South Korean media have published 17 articles about the Democracy Talk.
If you missed the live broadcast on 9 June, you can watch the entire webinar on the Embassy’s YouTube channel.
Written by: Swedish Embassy in Seoul
Photo: Joohwi Kang