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16 Mar, 2021 11:39

Seoul orders all foreign workers to undergo Covid-19 testing after similar move in most populous province sparked racism concerns

Seoul orders all foreign workers to undergo Covid-19 testing after similar move in most populous province sparked racism concerns

South Korea’s capital has launched a two-week coronavirus testing campaign targeting foreign workers and their employers. The move mirrors an operation in the province of Gyeonggi that sparked allegations of xenophobia.

The foreigner-focused testing drive was announced by the Central Disease Control Headquarters (KCDC) on Tuesday. The campaign will start in Seoul City on Wednesday and will continue until the end of March.

The testing will primarily be for foreign workers, as well as local business owners who employ at least one foreigner. If the people eligible fail to show up for testing, they will be subjected to “administrative measures” such as fines, the KCDC warned.

Undocumented foreign workers are also being targeted by the campaign, and the authorities have promised not to report them for not having proper paperwork to stay in the country.

“Whether documented or undocumented, we plan to make the order for all foreign employees,” Park Yoo-mi, the disease control official for the city government, said during a press briefing.

Also on rt.com Campaign of Covid-19 test targeting foreigners in S. Korea’s most populous province sparks allegations of xenophobia

The KCDC promised to expand the capacity of testing centers to accommodate the foreign workers, but it did not provide any estimates of how many people are expected to be tested. The foreigner-exclusive drive has been triggered by several recently detected coronavirus clusters linked to businesses employing such workers, the authorities have explained.

Seoul’s campaign effectively mirrors the drive launched last week by the province of Gyeonggi, the most populous region of the country, which surrounds the capital city. The province has some 85,000 foreigners employed legally – and an unknown number of illegal workers, estimated between 100,000 and 200,000 people. As of Monday, some 120,000 foreign workers had been tested.

The move has sparked allegations of xenophobia and racism, with foreigners criticizing the massive queues at testing centers, sloppy logistics and an overall hostile attitude. Some argued that the provincial authorities tried to scapegoat foreign workers instead of inspecting businesses and improving working conditions that led to coronavirus clusters. The province, however, has firmly rejected such accusations, insisting the testing program “was not devised to discriminate against foreigners” but was merely a “legitimate quarantine order” triggered by Covid-19 clusters.

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Employing one of the toughest anti-coronavirus restrictions in the world, South Korea has largely managed to keep the disease under control. Since the beginning of the pandemic, it has registered only some 96,000 cases, including around 1,600 deaths.

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