SEOUL, Nov. 18 (Korea Bizwire) — The government of the southeastern city of Gimhae apologized Thursday for ordering mandatory COVID-19 tests of foreign children registered at the city’s daycare centers amid a backlash over xenophobia and rights violations concerns.
A government memo obtained by Yonhap News Agency earlier this week showed the municipality, located 300 kilometers southeast of Seoul, ordered 93 daycare centers to cooperate with preemptive tests of foreign children under their care on Monday and Tuesday.
The city government explained the decision was made in light of an increase in COVID-19 cases connected to a daycare center for foreign nationals in the city.
The order eventually prompted backlash online, with some accusing the local government of unscientific and xenophobic administration and potentially infringing on the rights of children and parents by ordering the children to undergo mandatory tests.
Following the outrage, the local government rescinded the order Tuesday, telling daycare centers not to submit the test results.
“In the end, we are sorry for causing inconvenience to parents of foreign children,” the local government apologized in a statement released Thursday. Officials added they will pay more attention to human rights sensitivity in its policy administrations.
Many foreign parents in Gimhae, however, expressed frustration over the belated order withdrawal and apology, and insisted the decision should have not have been made in the first place.
“I’m disappointed and sad that all of these children were singled out and made to take the test. I hope that no one has to go through that again. Child or adult,” a mother whose six-year-old son received a mandatory test told Yonhap News Agency via an instant messaging service.
Krista Looper, an American mother of two children and a copyeditor based in the city, said she was glad the order was rescinded but added that “the damage is already done.”
“They made little children feel like ‘others’ and made their classmates see them as suspects for their nationality,” Looper said.
In March, the Seoul city government issued a similar administrative order requiring all foreign workers in the city to undergo mandatory virus tests amid a spike in cases in areas concentrated with foreign nationals.
The order was eventually canceled after the National Human Rights Commission of Korea launched an inquiry to determine whether the administrative order constituted discrimination or an infringement on foreign nationals’ rights.
Chung Sye-kyun, who served as prime minister in March, then called for authorities to maintain acute awareness of racial sensitivity in implementing antivirus measures amid criticisms against the Seoul city government’s order.