SEOUL, March 10 (Korea Bizwire) — Nearly half of Chinese students enrolled in South Korean universities have yet to return here after their winter break in China, the Ministry of Education here said Tuesday, indicating their growing fears over coronavirus outbreak ahead of the start of the spring semester.
The ministry said 45.6 percent, or 30,955, of 67,876 Chinese students attending universities across South Korea have not returned to campus for the spring semester after their winter vacation.
It said that a considerable number of Chinese students now staying at home are expected to take a leave of absence for the spring semester or earn credits through distance learning courses.
Local universities have decided to delay the start of the spring semester, originally scheduled for early this month, by two to four weeks and offer various online classes to help curb the spread of COVID-19 at the recommendation of the education ministry.
“It is unclear for now whether absent Chinese students will take the upcoming semester off or return here after the coronavirus crisis is over. The government will later compile the portion of students choosing a leave of absence for the spring semester,” a ministry official said.
Education authorities of South Korea and China agreed on Feb. 28 to advise their students against returning to school in the other country as part of their cooperation to contain the viral disease, which has so far infected over 7,500 people in South Korea.
The ministry had expected about 6,230 Chinese students to come back to South Korea between Feb. 29 and last Saturday, but only 21.3 percent, or 1,327, of them actually returned.
The number of Chinese students returning to South Korea totaled 59 last Tuesday, 33 last Wednesday, 67 last Thursday, 69 last Friday and 48 last Saturday.
All the returnees are required to quarantine themselves at school dormitories or private residences for two weeks under close monitoring from school or health officials.
So far, only one Chinese student, who attends Catholic Kwandong University in Gangneung, about 240 kilometers east of Seoul, has tested positive for the new coronavirus.
The student was discharged Monday from a local hospital after medical treatment.
The ministry said 25,904 Chinese students are now in South Korea after a trip to China during the winter break. Of them, 20,409, or 78.8 percent, have already completed a two-week quarantine after arriving here before late last month.