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Expand the entry ban (KOR)

Feb 05,2020
As over 400 Chinese citizens have already died from the new coronavirus from Wuhan, Hubei Province, a 16th person has been confirmed as infected in Korea. The person went around Gwangju for about two weeks without being detected. After returning to Korea on Jan. 19 after a trip to Thailand, she went to hospitals in the city because she felt unwell and was diagnosed with the virus on Monday. She may have spread the virus in and around her home city throughout the Lunar New Year’s holidays. The developments set off loud alarms on our quarantine front.

Concerns are growing of a broader spread of the virus. The Moon Jae-in administration must proactively block the diffusion of the virus after the World Health Organization (WHO) declared it a global concern.

A lack of information about of a number of locations visited by people infected with the virus makes local residents worried. In Seoul, Seocho and Seongdong Districts have made relevant information public, but other districts are reluctant to do the same. Seoul Mayor Park Won-soon must find effective ways to minimize such an information gap.

Another problem involves infringement of privacy, because personal information of the 16th person confirmed to carry the virus was leaked. To help encourage people to voluntarily report their infections to health authorities, the government must find out who leaked such information and strictly punish them — and those who willfully spread fake news — on charges of obstruction of business.

In such volatile circumstances, new Chinese Ambassador Xing Haiming stirred controversy after warning Seoul that it should not be too “interfering,” by doing things like banning entry of Chinese people to Korea. The remarks he made border on interference in our domestic affairs. Xing has yet to present President Moon Jae-in with his credentials to serve as China’s ambassador to Seoul. That in itself was a breach in protocol. Usually envoys don’t meet the press until after they have presented their credentials.

In a press conference Tuesday, the ambassador warned against Korea’s “discrimination” against China and a ban on tours and trade after quoting recommendations by the WHO. He made very inappropriate remarks in such sensitive moments.

Compared to the United States and Japan, Korea belatedly took measures to ban the entry of foreigners who had visited Wuhan, and is still reluctant to do so. In fact, the Moon administration’s ban only applies to foreigners who visited Wuhan. Moon stopped short of mentioning advice by the Korean Medical Association to expand the ban to other parts of China.

North Korea and Russia, traditional allies of China, have already shut their borders with China, and medical experts in Hong Kong are on strike to urge the city government to close its borders, too. In times of crisis like this, our government must protect the lives and safety of our people more than anything else.

JoongAng Ilbo, Feb. 5, Page 30