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South Korea accused of discriminating against vaccine | Coronavirus pandemic News

Seoul, South Korea – Imagine two people.

Both live in South Korea. Both received COVID-19 vaccines when they were abroad, one in the United States and the other in France.

Both had to go through quarantine on their return to Korea, but authorities accepted the ‘completely vaccinated’ status of only one of them, which meant that the person was allowed to go to high-risk places to clubs and bars, and to avoid them. in the forties of the future, the daily life of others was very limited.

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

“I find it unfair and a kind of discrimination,” said Laurane Batany, a French citizen who recently arrived in Korea and was vaccinated in her home country in July.

And his Korean counterpart agrees.

“I can’t find or understand a rational reason for the same certificate of treating foreign residents differently from Koreans. It’s as if they think foreigners are more likely to lie. It’s embarrassing and clear discrimination,” said Choi Il-woo, who was vaccinated in Korea in the U.S. in July. citizens.

Vaccine recognition is crucial in a South Korean country that has reviewed pandemic-related restrictions this month, according to a policy it calls “living with COVID-19”.

The new rules include a COVID-19 walkway that allows access to fully integrated facilities such as nightclubs, bars, gyms and sports venues. This is an application called COOV, which excludes foreigners who are vaccinated outside of Korea.

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

Korean officials have expressed concern about the credibility of vaccines given outside its borders and are urging foreigners to go to the Korean consulate in the country where they were vaccinated to get a “forty-one exemption” before entering South Korea. This exception means that their vaccine can be registered in the COOV application.

“Because there are difficulties in verifying the authenticity of a foreign-issued vaccination certificate, the Korean government only accepts the quarantine exemption granted by Korean diplomatic offices in the case of a foreign citizen,” he told international journalists. statements.

South Korea also has a list of 16 countries, including Myanmar, South Africa and Chile, as no quarantine exceptions are possible.

Confused and complicated

As the world slowly opens up and international travel shows signs of rebounding, countries are pursuing their own and sometimes contradictory policies, despite the WHO’s recommendation to governments to avoid exclusionary policies and to recognize vaccines equally across borders.

Other countries have also put restrictions on the vaccines they want to accept, with some not recognizing those inoculated with Chinese Sinovac and Sinopharm vaccines or the Russian Sputnik-V vaccine.

“Some of South Korea’s COVID-19 policies are literally as crazy as those of North Korea,” Chad O’Carroll, a journalist and founder of the North Korean-based media organization, posted on Twitter.

Complicating the issue, some South Korean foreigners do not even have the right to waive. Students are among them.

“Well, since I’m here as a student, and because when students arrive they have to go through quarantine, I couldn’t get an exception to forty,” Batany told Al Jazeera.

Students “do NOT have the right to request an exemption of forty,” as the Finnish embassy in Korea puts it in bright red letters on its website.

Unable to register in the Korean system and download the COOV application to prove the dual status, Batany has been left out of certain sections of Korean society.

“I tried to get into a kind of nightclub and bar, and the person at the entrance told us that we couldn’t get in with proof of our foreign vaccine, that we had to get the COOV app. We couldn’t recognize our vaccines, ”he said.

South Korea is battling a number of cases as it goes on to “live” with coronavirus [Yonhap via EPA]

The application of the rules only to foreigners and non-citizens living in South Korea has greatly disturbed them.

At a press conference last week, health officials tried to explain as best they could that the cuts were not xenophobic, but of a practical nature.

“It is difficult to make the confirmation process, some countries have standardized verification formats, and other countries accept a variety of evidence from clinics, hospitals or local governments,” said Sohn Youngrea, a spokesman for the Ministry of Health and Welfare. “That’s why we ask for exceptions provided by our offices abroad.”

Not everyone agrees, however.

The foreigners stood out

The British ambassador has criticized the logic of the Korean system.

“If the evidence produced by a Korean citizen as a result of a foreign vaccine is good enough to register that vaccine to pass the vaccine, the same evidence should be sufficient to also register the foreign vaccines of foreign nationals,” said Simon Smith, British ambassador. South Korea, he said in a video uploaded to his embassy’s official Twitter account.

Vaccination policy has raised concerns about official discrimination against foreigners in a country where only three percent of the population is of non-Korean origin.

Earlier this month, the small town of Gimhae promised that all foreign children should be tested for coronavirus after the increase in cases related to kindergarten. The online reaction pushed the order back and prompted the city to apologize.

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

There are currently no laws in South Korea against discrimination based on ethnicity, race, or sexual orientation.

Legislation has been proposed several times since 2007, but has not progressed due to resistance from conservative politicians and religious groups.

“This law is a very common and fundamental law, it is a law based on equal rights under the Korean Constitution,” said Lee Jong-geol, head of the South Korean Coalition for Anti-Discrimination Law. “[The vaccination controversy] It will help Korean people become more interested in understanding why they need an anti-discrimination law. ”

South Korea has eased restrictions for fully integrated, but people need to use an app to show their status and visit restaurants and bars. [File: Yonhap via EPA]

The British ambassador noted that discrimination against foreigners is something that affects not only companies and investors, but also people who are actively supporting Korean society.

But a change in the law will be too late for Betanyi and other foreigners who live in South Korea and are vaccinated elsewhere.

For now, those who have not owned any property must follow the rules: Submit a negative PCR test performed within the previous 48 hours to enter a gym, club, or other large site.

Some are getting vaccinated again, but Betany expects the best and the government will change its policies.

“I think we’ll have to wait,” he says with a laugh.

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