South Korea accused of discrimination in vaccine identification | Coronavirus pandemic news

Seoul, Korea – Imagine two people.

Both of them live in South Korea. Both were vaccinated against COVID-19 when they were overseas in July-one in the United States and the other in France.

Both must be quarantined after returning to South Korea, but the authorities only accept one of them as “fully vaccinated”, which means that although the person is allowed to go to high-risk places such as clubs and bars, and to avoid future quarantine, the other It was found that their daily life was severely restricted.

The first is a Korean citizen and the other is a foreigner.

“It feels a bit unfair and discriminatory to some extent,” said Laurane Batany, a French national who recently arrived in South Korea and was vaccinated in her home country in July.

Her Korean counterparts also agreed.

“For the exact same certificate, I can’t find or understand any reasonable reason to treat foreign residents differently from Koreans. It’s as if they think foreigners are more likely to lie. This is a shame and obvious discrimination,” July in the United States Said Choi Riyu, a Korean national who was vaccinated.

Vaccine identification is crucial in South Korea, which this month revised its pandemic-related restrictions under its so-called “coexistence with COVID-19” policy.

The new rules include a COVID-19 pass that allows fully vaccinated people to enter nightclubs, bars, gyms, and sports venues. This is the pass-an app called COOV-foreigners who are vaccinated outside of Korea are excluded.

The COOV application is essential for access to stadiums, gyms and other places considered “high risk” [Ahn Young-joon/AP Photo]

South Korean officials expressed concern about the credibility of vaccination abroad and required foreigners to go to the Korean consulate in the country where the vaccination was taken to obtain a “quarantine exemption” before entering South Korea. This exemption means that their vaccine can be registered in the COOV application.

“Because the authenticity of vaccination certificates issued abroad is difficult to verify, the Korean government will only recognize vaccination certificates issued abroad if foreign citizens submit a quarantine exemption certificate issued by Korean embassies and consulates abroad. ,” South Korea The disease control and prevention agency said in a statement to international journalists.

South Korea also has a list of 16 countries including Myanmar, South Africa, and Chile, which cannot even be exempted from quarantine.

Chaotic and complicated

As the world slowly reopens and international travel shows signs of rebound, although WHO recommends that governments avoid exclusionary policies and equally recognize vaccines across borders, countries are adopting their own and sometimes contradictory policies.

Some other countries have also imposed restrictions on the vaccines they are willing to accept. Some countries do not recognize that they have been vaccinated with the Chinese vaccines Sinovac and Sinopharm or the Russian vaccine Sputnik-V.

“Some of South Korea’s current COVID-19 policies are indeed as crazy as North Korea’s policies,” Chad O’Carroll, reporter and founder of NKnews.org, a media organization focused on North Korea, posted on Twitter.

To complicate matters, some foreigners in South Korea are not even eligible for exemption. Student is one of them.

Batani told Al Jazeera: “Well, because I came here as a student, students must be quarantined when they arrive, so I cannot get a quarantine exemption.”

Students are just “not eligible to apply for quarantine exemption” because the Korean Embassy in Finland indicated it in bright red letters on their website.

Due to the inability to register in the Korean system and download the COOV application to prove her dual identity, Batany has been turned away by certain parts of Korean society.

“I tried to enter a kind of dance club and bar, and the people at the entrance told us that we cannot enter with foreigners’ vaccination certificates, we must obtain the COOV application. We cannot get our vaccination approved,” she said.

South Korea is battling a surge of cases in the process of “coexisting” with the coronavirus [Yonhap via EPA]

The fact that the rule only applies to foreigners residing in Korea, not citizens, makes many people feel uneasy.

At a press conference last week, health officials tried to explain to the best of their ability that these restrictions were not xenophobic, but rather meaningful.

Sun Yangreya, a spokesperson for the Ministry of Health and Welfare, said: “The confirmation process is difficult. Some countries have standardized verification formats, while other countries accept various certificates from clinics, hospitals or local governments.” “This is why we require our overseas The office issues an exemption.”

However, not everyone agrees.

Foreigners singled out

The British ambassador once criticized the logic of the South Korean system.

British Ambassador Simon Smith said: “If the overseas vaccination certificate provided by South Korean nationals is sufficient to register the vaccination, then the same evidence should also be sufficient to register the overseas vaccination of foreign nationals.” Said in a video on the Twitter account.

The vaccine pass policy has revived concerns about official discrimination against foreigners in a country where only about 3% of the population is not of Korean descent.

Earlier this month, it was reported that Gimhae City ordered all foreign children to be tested for coronavirus after the increase in cases related to kindergartens. The backlash online prompted the city to withdraw the order and apologize.

According to the South Korean news agency Yonhap News Agency, the local government said in a statement: “We are sorry for the inconvenience caused to the parents of foreign children.”

South Korea currently has no laws prohibiting discrimination based on race, race, or sexual orientation.

Since 2007, legislation has been proposed many times, but due to resistance from conservative politicians and religious groups, no progress has been made.

“This law is a very common and basic law. It is a law based on equal rights granted by the Korean Constitution,” said Lee Jong-geol, co-chair of the Korea Anti-Discrimination Legislative Alliance. “[The vaccination controversy] It will help Korean people gain more interest and understand why they need anti-discrimination laws. “

South Korea has been relaxing restrictions on full vaccination, but people must use apps to display their status and check in at places such as restaurants and bars [File: Yonhap via EPA]

As the British ambassador pointed out, discrimination against foreigners in COVID-19 vaccination affects not only companies and investors, but also people who actively contribute to Korean society.

But for Bettany and other foreigners who live in South Korea and have been vaccinated elsewhere, any changes in the law may be too late.

Currently, they must follow the rules for those who don’t have jabs at all-submit a negative PCR test that has been performed in the past 48 hours in order to enter a gym, club, or other large venue.

Some people have been vaccinated again, but Betany just hopes to achieve the best results and the government will change its policies.

“I think we will have to wait,” she said with a smile.

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