Microsoft founder Bill Gates met with South Korean officials on Tuesday and urged them to ramp up efforts to stop infectious diseases like the coronavirus, emphasizing that the world must be better prepared for another pandemic.
The billionaire spoke to South Korean lawmakers in Seoul and called for stronger international cooperation, including efforts to create vaccines effective for a wider range of coronaviruses.
He said the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and South Korean government have agreed to a partnership established to address health disparities between countries and support efforts to eliminate infectious diseases in the developing world.
Gates pointed to South Korea’s strength in public health tools, research and vaccine manufacturing. He also lauded the country for its commitment to donate $200 million to the U.N.-backed COVAX distribution program, which provides COVID-19 vaccines to lower-income countries.
"There’s a lot we need to do together – we need to reach deep, we need to build more partnership, we need to encourage the scientists," Gates said in his remarks at the National Assembly. "But I am confident that with these steps we can continue to radically improve global health, to cut the number of children dying in half again, to eradicate diseases like polio, measles and malaria, and improve the lives of all humans."
He also met with South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol. The president spoke about his willingness to further cooperate with the Gates Foundation to "improve the health of global citizens."
Gates said South Korea has been a "good partner" in the Gates Foundation's health projects, such as the development of COVID-19 vaccines, as well as work on HIV, malaria and tuberculosis.
"We hope we can do more together," Gates said.
Gates also spoke with leaders of the SK business group about cooperation on health projects. The company's pharmaceutical sector, SK Bioscience, makes coronavirus vaccines and has received funds from the Gates Foundation to develop nasal sprays created to assist in the prevention of COVID-19 infections.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.