What happened?

In South Korea, the government announced a “New Deal”, pledging to invest $94.5 billion in the economy in the next 5 years. The Korean New Deal will focus on supporting innovation and improving the environment, including a plan to train 100.000 people in artificial intelligence (referring to a Korean tale of a king who did not heed a warning from a scholar to train 100.000 soldiers, leading Japan to rampage the land) and a plan to build 230.000 energy-saving homes. What is perhaps most interesting, is a concept at the center of the Korean New Deal called “untact”.

What does this mean?

Untact is the idea of a future built around doing things without direct contact with others. Examples include self-service retail and contactless payment. The New Deal will promote “untact industries” (e.g. remote healthcare, virtual offices, e-commerce support for SME’s). The idea of building an ‘untact world’ is driven by much more than the corona virus. The Korean government believes that it will support both the competitiveness of the economy (by becoming a leader in “untacting technologies”) and improve the environment.

What’s next?

When the Korean state has a vision for the future and invests billions of dollars into it, we should pay attention. The Korean ‘developmental state’ has a strong tradition of bringing government agencies and business leaders together to rebuild the economy. Through this model, Korean giants such as Hyundai and Samsung became globally competitive. When it comes to the idea of an untact world, the Korean New Deal teaches us that it extends far beyond the current corona virus, and is rather driven by technological, demographic and environmental change. That is why the idea of untact, despite its obvious drawbacks to the social fabric, could gain ground in other parts of the world.