Controversy over the quarantine pass.
In South Korea, students will be able to use academies, libraries, and study cafes without a “quarantine pass” (vaccination certificate and voice verification system) for the time being. This is because the government’s policy to expand facilities that mandated quarantine passes has been put on hold. On January 4, 2022, the Seoul Administrative Court Administration Department 8 accepted some of the injunctions filed by the people against the Minister of Health and Welfare, asking for the suspension of excessive quarantine pass measures, and decided to suspend the enforcement effect until the main bill is sentenced.
Since November 2021, the Korean government has implemented a “quarantine pass” policy that allows access to entertainment facilities, singing practice centers, baths, and indoor sports facilities only if they have been vaccinated against the COVID-19 vaccine or have received negative results from the PCR test. From December of the same year, the scope of application has expanded to restaurants, cafes, academies, libraries, and movie theaters. Controversy grew as the quarantine pass, which was applied only to adults, was expanded to teenagers from March 2022. Parents’ organizations and others filed an administrative lawsuit claiming that the quarantine pass violated adolescents’ right to freedom and learning. Subsequently, more than 1,000 people, including medical personnel, gathered to file a separate lawsuit to stop all quarantine pass policies themselves.
According to the Seoul Administrative Court’s decision, the court judged that the quarantine pass is “a measure that unfavorably discriminates against unvaccinated people” and that (due to the quarantine pass), the right to self-determination on the body will not be fully exercised.” “In reality, people who have to use academies, reading rooms, etc. are pressured to complete the vaccination regardless of their intention to use the facility, so they are indirectly forced to make decisions about an individual’s body.” In particular, the court also said that the failure to use academies and reading rooms violates freedom of education and freedom of job choice.
The court even specified in the decision on the “risk of spreading COVID-19.” “The difference cannot be seen as remarkable because the group of unvaccinated people is only about 2.3 times more likely to be infected with COVID-19 than the group of vaccinated people.” The court also said, “The difference is not significantly large, with 1.5 out of 1,000 infected people aged 12 or older and 0.7 out of 1,000 out of 1,000 vaccinated people aged 12 or older over in the past week.”
Criticism has been steadily raised that Korea’s quarantine measures related to COVID-19 limit basic rights and violate privacy. With this ruling, the more restrictive the quarantine policy is essential for individual life or survival, the more likely it is to put a brake on the quarantine policy. The court supplemented what the quarantine authorities did not take care of in detail. The Ministry of Health and Welfare’s Central Disaster Management Headquarters said at a regular briefing on January 6 that “the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is discussing with experts the direction of improving the scope of quarantine passes to be more acceptable in the field.”