What is our embassy doing?
The author is a Beijing correspondent of the JoongAng Ilbo.
An employee at a Korean company in Beijing entered Seoul on Dec. 22. The employee took a Covid-19 test at a public health center in his residence after arrival. He was not worried, but received a call the next day. “You have tested positive without symptoms.” Where did he contract the virus? What about his colleagues in Beijing? The company informed the Korean Embassy in Beijing, and the embassy held an emergency meeting. “You should report to Beijing’s health authorities immediately and follow the protocol,” advised the embassy. After the case was reported to the city, his company in Beijing closed.
The company had more than 20 branches in China, and when its Beijing headquarters shut down, wages were all suspended. Two 33-story buildings where the company was located were shut down. As a result, over 10,000 Korean and Chinese workers could not report to work. In the meantime, the Korean community in Beijing was stirred. He was the first positive case among Koreans living in the capital. There were unfounded rumors about Korean restaurants and buildings he visited. Some joked about a Korean spreading the virus in Beijing.
The Beijing health authorities started contact tracing. Company employees, close contacts, families and people who visited the buildings were all tested. The results were all negative.
Beijing authorities asked the company to re-test the employee in Korea. The employee asked the public health center, but was told he did not qualify. The company asked for the embassy’s help to have the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency explain the situation. The embassy refrained from meddling in an individual company’s case.
On Nov. 29, an employee at an SK hynix factory in Chongqing entered Korea and tested positive at a local hospital. The factory was closed, and 2,700 employees and 8,217 people who had close contact with him tested negative. The employee was tested again and got a negative result. The factory resumed operations after two days.
With the livelihoods of tens of thousands of Koreans and Chinese at risk, is it simply a personal petition to have an employee re-tested back in Korea? Many Korean residents feel anxious. I don’t doubt the testing capabilities of the Korean health authorities. When no trace of the virus the is found, it is very reasonable in China and Korea to demand another test. If the request is refused because of the rules, why’s can’t Koreans get help from their own embassy?