The author is a Beijing correspondent of the JoongAng Ilbo.
The situation for Korean people in China is unusual. On Feb. 26, a friend from Tsingtao, China, called me. In an urgent voice, he said that the houses of Korean people who had recently returned were marked with red. So I checked with some people involved. One of them was Yang Jae-gyeong, the president of the Korean Association in Chongqing.
When he returned on Feb. 24, he didn’t notice anything unusual, but suddenly, a sign was put up on his apartment and the entry was blocked on the 26th. There was no advance notice. He was told that if he comes out, the quarantine would go back to day 1. His wife, whose quarantine period had ended, was also locked up in the house. It was practically a confinement beyond coercive isolation. Another house was not only marked red, but also had a surveillance camera installed at the door.
Lee, a Korean who arrived in Weihai the day after Korea elevated the epidemic status to “serious,” was isolated in a hotel at the airport. When his temperature hit 37.1 degrees Celsius (98.8 degrees Fahrenheit), he was moved to a hospital and was quarantined. His wife was caught at the checkpoint on the way to the airport and was investigated for three hours. His friend could not go to work because Koreans were not allowed to pass the toll gate on the way to Weihai. It is not just excessive, but reckless. What would have happened if a Chinese person living in Korea had their house marked in red and was not allowed to leave their house for two weeks after visiting China?
Nevertheless, the Chinese government’s response to the Korean government’s expression of regret was skillful. Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said in a telephone conversation with Korean counterpart Kang Kyung-wha that he would keep Korea in mind, but it was important to control movement based on China’s experience.
He praised Korea but claimed that the measure was inevitable. Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian went a step further. He said that the measures against the people entering the country may seem “excessive” to the eyes of countries that did not realize the fearfulness of the epidemic, but the Chinese people who already suffered great damage would think it was necessary for everyone.
A government official said that Korea was approaching “tit for tat” for each case, according to the principle of proportionality. Minister Kang said that Korea has refrained from harsh actions against China considerably, so the two countries need to communicate so that China does not respond excessively. What is the excessive measure by China that the government is thinking of?
The accumulated number of patients in China is 78,630, while the number of patients in Korea is just over 2,000. The Korean government has not placed a minimum measure of a two-week self-quarantine on Chinese people entering Korea, except for people coming from Hubei Province.
JoongAng Ilbo, Feb. 28, Page 28