South Korea’s stock market ended 2020 on a record high and multiple real-economy indicators are aligning to suggest a surprisingly bright 2021 for the country, its bourse and its flagship sector – tech.
None of this, however, is evident in Seoul at ground zero as Covid-19's third-wave rolls on unchecked.
By day, shopping precinct Myeong Dong, which would normally be bustling with hordes of Chinese tourists storming branded outlets and department stores, is silent. Imdae, or “for rent,” signs have replaced retail displays in many shop windows.
By night, the city’s 24-7 entertainment districts are uncommonly silent as the neon goes out at 9:00 pm.
And at all hours, the capital’s quintessential refueling points, rest stops, meeting zones and social interaction spaces, as well as its innumerable coffee shops, are empty. Under social distancing guidelines that were extended on Saturday until January 17, all service is take-out only.
At the retail end of the economy, it would be hard to pinpoint positives. But beyond the high street, a different picture comes into focus.