• Govt Faces Challenges With Foreign Visitors To Itaewon Amid New Virus Cluster

A back alley of Itaewon deserted due to a new cluster infection of the novel coronavirus
A back alley of Itaewon deserted due to a new cluster infection of the novel coronavirus

Cell tower data obtained by the Seoul city government shows that out of more than 13,400 people that were in the Itaewon area near five nightclubs from April 24 to May 6, nearly 10 percent were foreign nationals.

The information was collected amid a new cluster of novel coronavirus infections linked to the popular international nightlife district.

Text messages have been sent to those that were in the area during this period to urge them to get tested for the virus.

But as our Ron Chang explains, the government is facing challenges when it comes to the foreigners that were there.


Data from cell towers in the international district of Itaewon show that 1,312 foreign nationals visited the area from the end of April to early May.

Seoul city has translated this information into 12 languages and sent it to support facilities for foreigners.

It has also called on respective embassies to encourage their nationals to get tested for the virus.

The U.S. Embassy in Seoul has posted instructions on its website and Facebook, informing all foreign residents on how they can get tested.

TBS reached out to the embassy for more information about U.S. citizens that might've visited the bars and clubs but its public affairs section said it does not comment on issues involving Americans.

These efforts by both local and central governments are aimed at encouraging foreign nationals to get tested without having to worry about revealing their identities.

Some may even hesitate due to language barriers.

But Heidi from Germany, who came forward to get tested after receiving a text message, said the process was pretty easy.

“I got a message in English and they told me if I had visited bars or clubs in Itaewon in a certain period of time, I should call a certain number. I was first answered in Korean but then 10 minutes later, they called me back and they were talking to me in English and they explained to me if I could pass by and get tested quickly. It was actually super convenient.”

In this way, the government is hoping foreign nationals will voluntarily get tested to prevent secondary and tertiary infections.

Officials continue to reiterate that the tests are free, anonymous and the fact that undocumented foreigners do not have to worry about getting deported.

<Photo: Yonhap News>
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