December 10, 2023

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Coronavirus: Trump gets Seoul population wrong after saying he knows South Korea 'better than anybody'

a figure of 28 million. ​

“You said several times,” asked PBS NewsHour reporter Yamiche Alcindor, “that the United States has ramped up testing, but the United States is still not testing per capita as many people as countries like South Korea. Why is that, and when do you think that that number will be on par with other countries?”

In typical adversarial mode, Mr Trump replied: “It’s very much on par. Look, per capita – we have areas of country that’s very large.

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“I know South Korea better than anybody. It’s a very tight (sic). Do you know how many people are in Seoul? Do you know how big the city of Seoul is? 38 million people. Bigger than anything we have. 38 million people all tightly wound together.”

In fact, Seoul has a population of just under 10 million. It is possible that Mr Trump confused the South Korean capital with Tokyo, the world’s largest metropolitan area, which has an estimated population of close to 38 million,

Others have pointed out that Seoul is 38 metres above sea level, and that the figure is rendered as “38m” in the short Wikipedia summary that appears when the word “Seoul” is googled.

South Korea was one of the first countries outside China to face a major coronavirus outbreak, with nearly 10,000 cases now counted. However, it quickly implemented a rigorous programme of testing and social distancing measures, and has successfully sent its number of cases into decline.

The US, meanwhile, has just reported the highest daily death toll of its coronavirus outbreak so far, and has now seen more cases than any other country.

Mr Trump continued to insist that the US is leading the world in coronavirus tests, throughout his response, even though the rollout of such tests has hit multiple snags – and overlooking the fact that in early March, his own vice president acknowledged that the country’s supply of testing kits was inadequate. Recent promises of a mass network of drive-through testing sites have so far fallen short.

“I didn’t talk about per capita. We have done more tests by far than any country in the world. By far. Our testing is also better than any country in the world. And when you look at that, as simple as that looks, that’s something that’s a game changer and every country wants that. Every country.”

After his riff on South Korea and the US’s testing prowess, Mr Trump repeated his claim that the Obama administration had constrained the US’s ability to manufacture and carry out tests, a notion that has been debunked as false.

“This administration inherited a broken system. A system that was obsolete. A system that didn’t work. It was okay for a tiny, small group of people, but once you got beyond that, it didn’t work.”

In fact, reports have said that Mr Trump himself agitated against early testing for fear it would harm his re-election chances.