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[Newsmaker] Chinese students in Korea advised 14-day self-isolation

The government said Monday that it will advise Chinese students enrolled in Korean universities to suspend attending classes and to stay in isolation for two weeks, in an effort to rein in the spread of the COVID-19 virus, as they are set to return for the new school year.

Questions remain, however, over the effectiveness of the measures as they are not legally binding. While there are no legal grounds for local authorities to punish students breaking self-isolation rules, some Chinese students voiced their dissatisfaction with the measures.


Some 19,742 foreign students flew into Korea from China, including 19,022 Chinese nationals, between Dec. 1 and Feb. 14, ahead of the reopening of universities in March, with some 50,000 more students expected to return to Korea in the coming weeks.

“It is not that we will impose self-isolation on all Chinese students by legally binding force,” said an official from the Education Ministry at a briefing Monday. “Whether the students are in their residences or dormitories, each university will thoroughly monitor once a day that they refrain from going outside and suspend going to the schools.”

The ministry asked municipalities to open state-run accommodations and facilities for students flying from China for the self-isolation period as universities struggle to find space to house Chinese students in isolation.

Under measures announced by the government a day earlier, students and faculty members flying from China will be required to receive health checkups and download a “self-diagnosis” mobile application to be allowed into the country. The schools they study at or work for will be informed of their entry into Korea.

Through the app, Korean authorities will monitor the status of their health. 

After they enter Korea, they will not be allowed to attend classes for a 14-day period and will be required to stay isolated in their residences. They will be advised to refrain from going outside or using public school facilities to minimize direct contact with others. Their student identification cards will be suspended temporarily. Their health status will be checked at least once a day.

After the 14-day self-isolation, the students will be allowed to go back to school.

For Chinese students who have not yet flown to the country and are having difficulties being issued visas, the ministry said it will advise them to take online classes or take a leave of absence for the first semester.

The ministry is to distribute detailed guidelines for universities in the coming days to manage students flying from China.

Total Chinese students enrolled in universities in Korea stands at 71,067 as of April last year. The majority of them -- 53.9 percent -- attend universities in Seoul, followed by Busan, Gyeonggi Province and Daejeon.

The coronavirus outbreak led 91.4 percent of the four-year universities in Korea to postpone their reopening by one to two weeks, according to the ministry.

As of Monday, Korea has 30 confirmed cases of the coronavirus, with the latest two infected having neither recently traveled to any virus-hit countries nor having come in contact with anyone diagnosed with the virus, according to the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The death toll from the coronavirus outbreak reached 1,770 and there were 2,048 new confirmed infections as of the end of Sunday in China, according to China’s health authorities on Monday. There are at least 71,700 confirmed cases around the world.