Prohibited parties secretly take place at holiday hot spotsGuesthouses in Korea's summer holiday hot spots have been covertly throwing parties for lodgers despite stricter social distancing rules amid rising Covid-19 cases.
Some guesthouses, notably those in Gangneung and Yangyang of Gangwon, have secretly held guesthouse parties by including them under “surf package deals.” These deals sell for around 120,000 won ($105) and generally include a dinner party, rental surfing gear and accommodation for surf learners.
These guesthouse parties refer to a casual gathering of four to six lodgers who share a room on the cheap. In some cases, the guests grouped together may be strangers. Alcohol is usually involved.
Other guesthouses disguise their parties as a "barbeque dinner party" or an "after dinner pub." Masked as a simple dinner, the guests gather at night after the dinner and carouse.
On social media, party promotion postings bombard those looking to go on summer vacations.
“We offer free, unlimited barbeque and alcohol for the first round, then the cheapest alcohol you can find in the area for the second round,” an owner of a Yangyang guesthouse posted on social media.
A 28-year-old office worker surnamed Lee visited Gangneug to learn surfing, a trending activity these days among young Koreans. “The group that I took surf lessons with invited me to their guesthouse party. I was puzzled because I knew that the current social distancing rules banned guesthouse parties,” said Lee. “I guess they cover it up by calling it a dinner.”
Authorities walked in on a large hotel pool party with dozens of unmasked people in Jumunjin District of Gangneung on July 31. The hotel had to suspend operations for 10 days.
Similar activities in violation of social distancing rules still manage to escape the government’s radar.
Currently, Gangneung city inspects their beaches, hotels and guesthouses until midnight.
Since Tuesday, it has tightened its crackdown by working with other eastern coast cities and districts.
“We currently have around 60 city personnel inspecting the beaches and areas surrounding lodging facilities,” said Gangneung Mayor Kim Han-geun. “We will work with scrutiny to crack down on all Covid-19 violations.”
Gangwon is currently placed under Level 3 social distancing rules, which bans accommodations from hosting any events, including parties. Despite this, as many as 457,927 people flock to beaches in Gangwon every day, according to Gangwon's East Sea headquarters.
Korea is currently experiencing its fourth wave of Covid-19 infections, with more than 1,000 infections reported daily since July.
BY LEE JIAN, CHOI YEON-SU [firstname.lastname@example.org]