Targets on our backsAs Korea has emerged as a center of the new coronavirus, anti-Korean sentiment is starting to spread around the globe. This unusual phenomenon mostly stems from a steep increase in the number of people infected with the virus in Korea since Jan.19, when the first infection was reported, while the number of new infections in China increased at a less dramatic rate.
An increasing number of foreign countries are either blocking Koreans from entering their countries or imposing tough regulations. As of Tuesday, 15 countries joined the move. Among them, six countries — including Israel, Bahrain and Jordan — banned Koreans’ entry, while nine countries — such as Brunei, Britain and Kazakhstan — made it mandatory to quarantine Korean travelers in an isolation facility for medical checkups. The United States ratcheted up the level of its travel advisory to “increased caution” from “normal precautions.”
We can’t find fault with foreign governments trying to keep their own people safe. But carrying out entry bans is a different matter. They must protect the human rights of Korean travelers.
In this sense, what happened in Israel and Mauritius was particularly disappointing. On Saturday, Israeli authorities turned back a Korean passenger plane with more than 170 Koreans onboard shortly after it arrived at Ben Gurion International Airport in Tel Aviv. What took place in Mauritius is also embarrassing. The authorities denied entry to 17 newly wedded Korean couples just because some of them showed signs of a cold. As the infection continues to spread here, Koreans will most likely continue to receive such poor treatment overseas.
We cannot force other countries to stop their entry bans, but our government must do its best to minimize such unreasonable discrimination. If it had communicated with the Israeli government closely, it could have prevented such a mishap. Anti-Korean sentiment directly affects us as it dampens our economic vitality by downgrading our international credibility and causes troubles for our businessmen on overseas trips. It can lead to foreign antipathy toward Korean products.
The government must protect the safety of Korean travelers and residents overseas. In Israel, the authorities reportedly considered the idea of detaining over 200 Korean travelers at a quarantine facility near a military base around Jerusalem. The government must collect detailed information on their locations and addresses to prevent such happenings. In a worst-possible case, it may have to bring them back.
JoongAng Ilbo, Feb. 25, Page 30