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Gimhae city withdraws virus test program of foreign children amid xenophobia concerns

National 11:50 November 17, 2021

By Chang Dong-woo

SEOUL, Nov. 17 (Yonhap) -- The government of the southeastern city of Gimhae on Wednesday withdrew a mandatory virus test program of foreign children registered at the city's daycare centers amid a backlash over xenophobia and rights violations concerns.

A government memo obtained by Yonhap News Agency showed the municipality, located 300 kilometers southeast of Seoul, ordered 93 daycare centers to cooperate with preemptive tests of foreign children under their care on Monday and Tuesday.

The city government explained the decision was made in light of an increase in COVID-19 cases connected to a daycare center for foreign nationals in the city.

As of 2018, foreigners accounted for 4.7 percent of the city's population of some 550,000.

The decision prompted backlash online, with some accusing the local government of unscientific and xenophobic administration and potentially infringing on the rights of children and parents by ordering the children to undergo mandatory tests.

Following the outrage, the local government decided not to collect the test results of foreign children.

This file photo shows a COVID-19 vaccination center in Gimhae, 300 kilometers southeast of Seoul, on Aug. 26, 2021. (Yonhap)

This file photo shows a COVID-19 vaccination center in Gimhae, 300 kilometers southeast of Seoul, on Aug. 26, 2021. (Yonhap)

"We learned that there were discriminatory elements in the decision and decided to withdraw it," a city hall official said. He added the local government sent a notice to daycare centers telling them not to submit the test results.

In March, the Seoul city government issued a similar administrative order requiring all foreign workers in the city to undergo mandatory virus tests amid a spike in cases in areas concentrated with foreign nationals.

The order was eventually canceled after the National Human Rights Commission of Korea launched an inquiry to determine whether the administrative order constituted discrimination or an infringement on foreign nationals' rights.

Chung Sye-kyun, who served as prime minister in March, then called for authorities to maintain acute awareness of racial sensitivity in implementing antivirus measures amid criticisms against the Seoul city government's order.


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