To discuss whether the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) outbreak constitutes a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC), World Health Organization (WHO) organized the 15-member International Health Regulations Emergency Committee (EC). On January 22-23 and January 30, 2020, EC convened and discussed whether the situation in China and other countries would constitute PHEIC and issued recommendations for WHO, China and the international community. Based on the recommendations of EC, WHO declared the COVID-19 outbreak a PHEIC. One of the purposes of the declaration of PHEIC was to alarm countries with weak public health infrastructures to prepare promptly for emerging infectious diseases (EID) and provide WHO with a framework for proactively supporting those countries. On February 3, 2020, WHO proposed the 2019 COVID-19 Strategic Preparedness and Response Plan, which includes accelerating research and development (R&D) processes as one of three major strategies. On February 11-12, 2020, WHO held the Global Research and Innovation Forum: Towards a Research Roadmap for COVID-19. The fact that a COVID-19 R&D forum was the first meeting convened after the PHEIC declaration testifies to the importance of R&D in response to EID. Korea has demonstrated a remarkable capacity in its laboratory response by conducting high-throughput COVID-19 testing and utilizing innovative drive-through samplings. These measures for early detection and screening of cases should be followed by full efforts to produce research-based evidence by thoroughly analyzing epidemiological, clinical and immunological data, which will facilitate the development of vaccines and therapeutics for COVID-19. It is expected that Korea plays a global partner for COVID-19 research by actively participating in immediate and mid/long-term priorities jointly led by WHO and global partners.