[Current Issues & Policies] No. 2020-35
Foreign Affairs Outlook for 2021
COVID-19: Non-traditional Security Threat
Dr. LEE Daewoo
Director of the Dept. of Diplomatic Strategy Studies, The Sejong Institute
With the spread of COVID-19, mankind is facing the biggest crisis since the Second World War. COVID-19, which has been rapidly spreading from Wuhan, China since late 2019, proliferated to 220 countries and territories as of December 20, 2020, infecting more than 76 million people and causing nearly 1.7 million death tolls. Although vaccines have been developed starting with the U.S., it is difficult to predict the end of COVID-19 as the supply of vaccines has not kept up with the demand.
The pandemic, such as COVID-19, is one of non-traditional security issues that seriously threaten the life of mankind. But people are suffering more from the containment policies and movement restrictions that governments are taking to prevent the spread of COVID-19. These measures have made people stay at home longer, especially young people, leading to a surge in the Internet usage. Islamic extremists are using the situation as an opportunity to spread extremist ideology and false information. They are appealing to participate in their retaliation (terrorism), convening messages that their enemies should pay the price. Meanwhile, anti-government forces led by the U.S. and European extreme-rightists are rising along with the criticism against the governments’ inefficient responses, and conspiracy theories and dissemination of false information are further prompting social conflict and violence.
At the same time, false information and conspiracy theories related to COVID-19 are encouraging extremists to commit bioterrorism. Of course, there has been no evidence yet that the virus has been used as a terrorist weapon, because it is very difficult for a single organization to develop such weapon without a state’s intervention. Nevertheless, the U.S., Europe, and the United Nations have warned of bioterrorism. Perhaps this is a warning with the possibility of the virus being stolen or accidentally leaked from the laboratory.
Finally, amid the spread of COVID-19, cooperation has disappeared from the international community, and states have found their own ways to survive in self-help. The lack of international cooperation is indeed an emerging security threat. Besides, the U.S., which should have taken the lead in fighting COVID-19, has given up its global leadership. In the 21st century, new viruses have threatened mankind every five-year term, including SARS (2003), swine flu (2009), Ebola virus (2014), MERS (2015), and COVID (2020). This suggests that another infectious disease could threaten humanity in the coming years. It is hoped that the next U.S. administration of Joe Biden, who emphasizes multilateralism and the recovery of international leadership, will take the lead in enhancing international cooperation to completely end COVID-19.
▶ For a full article in Korean, please follow the link:
※ Translator’s note: This is a summarized unofficial translation of the original paper which was written in Korean. All references should be made to the original paper.
※ This article is written based on the author’s personal opinions and does not reflect the views of the Sejong Institute.