• Protests Over COVID Testing Order For Foreigners Pressures Seoul City To Make Change
(Photo: Yonhap News)
(Photo: Yonhap News)
There is growing backlash among the foreigner community in South Korea's capital region over COVID-19 testing orders for foreign workers.

The mandate was issued first by the Gyeonggi Provincial Government last week, followed by a similar administrative order from the Seoul Metropolitan Government announced Tuesday.

They came amid concerns over the rise in coronavirus cases and cluster outbreaks from local industrial sites and "foreigner-dense" areas in recent weeks.

But many were troubled and confused by the new measures that singled out foreign workers and warned of fines for those who do not comply.

One foreign resident of Seoul, who asked not to be named, called the testing order "a bunch of nonsense."

"I have nothing to do with these factory workers. Why am I grouped in with them?"

He claimed the great majority of cases have been from locals, and following the government's logic, all Koreans should be required to get tested too.

Since last year, several provinces and cities have issued blanket testing orders for Koreans and foreigners alike when virus infections have been on the rise.

But unclear reasoning for such orders, or the lack thereof, can easily result in distress for groups that feel targeted, especially amid the COVID-19 pandemic, which has given rise to fear, stigma, and discrimination, especially against foreigners.

Paul Matthews, another Seoulite who's lived in South Korea for over 20 years, said although he didn't mind getting tested, there should have been clearer guidance to lessen the commotion within the expat community.

Employers of foreign nationals also expressed concern about how the order may unfairly treat foreign nationals.

Seoul National University released a statement to its members Wednesday, saying it is "extremely concerned" and "considers the mandatory COVID testing based on nationality misguided and detrimental."

TBS spoke to Bernard Egger, associate dean of International Affairs at SNU, who said such orders shouldn't be based on nationality, but other relevant virus-related metrics.

Egger stressed that SNU aims to create a diverse and inclusive community, adding that the problem is not getting tested, it's more the language that was used.

Foreign chambers of commerce here, including AMCHAM Korea, also said they conveyed the business community's concerns about the directives to the central government, and indicated the will be "corrected."

Under mounting criticism and pressure to withdraw the foreigner testing mandate, including from the central government, Seoul city announced a revision by late Friday afternoon.

The city said coronavirus testing for foreign workers is not mandatory but recommended for those who work in high-risk workplaces.

Gyeonggi Province earlier said it would withdraw its requirement for foreign nationals to be tested for COVID-19 before they can be hired, however, foreign workers and their employers must still get tested by March 22.

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