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PM calls for racial sensitivity in virus measures amid foreign community backlash

All News 17:25 March 22, 2021

SEOUL, March 22 (Yonhap) -- Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun on Monday stressed the importance of maintaining an acute awareness of racial sensitivity in implementing antivirus measures, amid criticisms that mandatory COVID-19 testing of all foreigners by local governments constituted racial discrimination.

The National Human Rights Commission, South Korea's human rights watchdog, on Friday launched an official inquiry to determine whether recent administrative orders from the Seoul city government and the Gyeonggi Provincial government subjecting all foreigners to mandatory testing constituted discrimination.

The decisions by the local governments were made amid a recent spike in infection cases in areas and workplaces with large numbers of foreign nationals. The moves triggered a strong backlash from the foreign community in the country, with the British Embassy in Seoul having filed an official complaint with the rights watchdog.

Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun (R) inspects an outdoor COVID-19 testing station set up in front of Guro Station in western Seoul, which is populated with migrant workers, on March 22, 2021, amid the spread of the virus. (Yonhap)

After the commission's inquiry announcement, Seoul city on Friday revised its mandatory order to that of a recommendation.

"I ask that health authorities and local governments implement antivirus measures with a level of sensitivity so that not only foreigners but also Korean nationals don't feel discriminated against" Chung said while inspecting a virus test station in Seoul's southwestern ward of Guro, a neighborhood with many foreign migrant workers.

Chung also stressed the need for health authorities, related state agencies and local governments to expand preemptive tests at virus-prone facilities to ensure the smooth progress of the nation's public vaccine campaign without a breakout of the nation's fourth pandemic wave.

The prime minister also instructed authorities and local governments to come up with measures to provide easier access to virus tests in the Guro neighborhood, while praising the high rate of test participation by the foreign community in the area.

Migrant workers receive tests at an outdoor COVID-19 testing station in Gyeongsan, North Gyeongsang Province, on March 11, 2021, as local authorities ordered all such workers to undergo tests. (Yonhap)

odissy@yna.co.kr
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