News & Events

When can South Korea join our bubble

With good planning, ideal geography and a lot of luck, New Zealand has mainly managed to remain Covid19 free.

While the internet and various communications software options, like Zoom have played a critical role in keeping us connected to our offshore markets and suppliers, it cannot beat face to face interactions. The current ‘distance meetings’ isn’t sustainable for long term business relationships.

In April, the NZ-Australia travel bubble took effect, allowing people to once again move (mostly) freely across borders. While there have been some teething issues, what the governments learnt in the process could pave the way for reconnecting NZ with its main markets. Australia is already looking at expanding its travel bubble to include Singapore, South Korea and Japan. With this in mind, shouldn’t New Zealand do the same?

South Korea would be an idea ‘Bubble Buddy’. The country handled the pandemic well, not through hard countrywide lockdowns but the adoption of technology. Kor

ea became a pioneer in Covid19 tracing. With the vast majority of the population actively using the tracking app, the government quickly dealt with localised outbreaks. As there were no major local many businesses were able to continue, and Korea was rewarded with economic growth rather than a recession.

South Korea has the technology to trace Covid19. Korea also enjoys the rule of law, and the majority of the population trust the government (in regards to handling Covid19). The South Korean government and the business community also want to expand its travel bubbles, with negotiations underway with Singapore, Japan and Vietnam. Considerable work has gone into protecting its border integrity from Covid19, and the country takes cross-border transmission seriously.

The benefits to New Zealand for a travel bubble with South Korea could be significant. As mentioned before, Korea is now the 9th largest economy in the world. Korea and New Zealand have long enjoyed friendly relations. They are in our top 5 partners for trade (and in a typical year) tourism and export education. The reputation of New Zealand in Korea is also strong thanks to New Zealand’s handling of the pandemic and the great work the New Zealand Embassy does on the ground.

Now that New Zealand has taken its first steps to reconnect with the world, let’s keep the momentum up. Hopefully, once again, New Zealand and Korea can enjoy a free flow of people and commerce.


– Simon Appleton

Executive Director, KNZBC