The government of leftist President Moon Jae-in launched a swarm of nearly 400 drones into the sky over Seoul on Friday to write messages of “comfort and hope” against the coronavirus pandemic, along with slogans touting Moon’s “Korean New Deal” economic program.
The aerial display was organized by South Korea’s Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, and Transport, which said it wanted to comfort the population and thank healthcare workers as a new wave of Wuhan coronavirus cases rolled across the country.
Authorities reported 191 new cases on Friday, most of them from the Seoul metropolitan area, marking the biggest single-day jump in 70 days. The government responded by imposing a fine of roughly $90 for people who fail to wear masks while using public transportation or visiting places such as hospitals, nightclubs, and sports facilities.
The armada of spider-like drones sitting in neat ranks on the ground before launch looked a bit creepy, but the huge light show they performed over Seoul included upbeat messages such as “Thanks to You” with a giant Valentine heart — an expression of gratitude to healthcare workers and South Korean citizens in general — plus sketches stressing the importance of hygiene and social distancing.
Another message read “Cheer up, Republic of Korea!” next to a silhouette of the peninsula. The show lasted for about ten minutes in total. Similar drone performances have been held in Seoul before, but with less fanfare, as the organizers worried about crowds assembling during the coronavirus crisis.
“I hope this drone show serves as an opportunity to convey joy and hope for a moment to our people experiencing pandemic fatigue,” Deputy Minister for Aviation Policy Kim Sang-do said.
According to Reuters, the drones also displayed “slogans promoting the government’s ‘Korean New Deal’ program to rebuild the economy.”
Moon announced in July that his administration would make an “unprecedented investment in the Korean version of the New Deal,” spending some $95 billion on various projects over the next five years, plus another $37.2 billion in city and provincial projects.
The program is supposed to emphasize creating jobs to recover from the coronavirus pandemic and creating a “smart green industrial complex.”
Moon said his New Deal would provide “a starting point for a leap forward to a country to lead the world.” Critics responded that his economic leadership was lacking even before the coronavirus pandemic and questioned whether a spending spree in South Korea would help reboot the economy while the rest of the world is still struggling with the fallout from the Wuhan pandemic.