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South Korea's capital slammed over COVID-19 test policy for foreign workers

South Korea's capital slammed over COVID-19 test policy for foreign workers
Officials with the city of Seoul are requiring foreign workers to under COVID-19 tests by March 31, according to local press reports. File Photo by Thomas Maresca/UPI | License Photo

March 17 (UPI) -- South Korean lawmakers are condemning a recent decision by the city of Seoul to require foreign migrant workers to take COVID-19 tests or pay a fine, after clusters of new cases were reported in the country's capital.

The Seoul Metropolitan Government said Wednesday it is enacting an administrative order that applies to "foreign workers," including undocumented migrant workers.

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The order requires the workers to undergo a free COVID-19 test by March 31 or face a 2 million won fine, or about $1,770, Hankyoreh reported.

South Korea has reported clusters of COVID-19 cases in recent weeks at work sites that employ migrant workers. In Seoul, many of these sites are in the Geumcheon, Yeongdeungpo and Guro districts, local paper Asia Business reported.

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The order could raise concerns because it applies only a segment of the population.

Park Yoo-mi, a disease control official with City Hall, said the order is in line with past policy, and that previous orders also have included "inspections of certain groups." Park said the order does not apply to "all foreigners," Newsis reported.

Lawmakers in the ruling Democratic Party said the order discriminates against many groups. Rep. Lee Sang-min said in a Facebook post the policy enables "racist discrimination."

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"This is an unfair racist act against foreigners, and it is so ridiculous," Lee said. "These are human rights violations that would make [South Korea] an international disgrace."

The tests are mandatory for employers in Seoul that hire at least one foreign worker. People who undergo tests can do so anonymously, according to the city of Seoul.

City Hall said it is expected to deliver notices of the order to 4,457 businesses that employ migrant workers. Most of the companies are small firms, with about 98% of the companies employing fewer than 10 people, according to Newsis.

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