In South Korea, parents have expressed anger over a vaccine mandate that requires children aged 12 to 16 to provide proof of vaccination against Covid-19 when entering public spaces that are frequented by students. These spaces include cram schools, internet cafes and public study rooms.
On December 3rd, the South Korean government announced that it would be expanding its current covid vaccine pass system to include anyone above the age of 12 beginning February. This means that school-aged children and teenagers will be required to “present a certificate of vaccination against COVID-19 or a negative test result to be allowed into restaurants, cafes and other multi-use facilities frequented by students.”
However, many students and parents were angered over the impending vaccine requirement. Those opposing the order have denounced it via multiple online petitions, with users calling it discriminatory against those who choose not to get vaccinated.
The petitioner, a mother of four, wrote: “I believe cram schools are not a place where people remove a mask and eat … I am curious about why the vaccine pass needs to be extended to children when there is a considerable number of breakthrough infection cases.”
Breakthrough infections are those that contracted coronavirus after becoming fully vaccinated against the virus.
Additionally, South Korea’s cram schools have voiced their concerns regarding the new vaccine requirement for students. Cram schools, known as hagwon in Korean, are privately-run schools that provide after-school tutoring to prepare students for exams.
Lee Yu-Won, head of the Korea Association of Hagwon, said in a press release: “This measure is different from the previous ones as it neglects the cram schools’ efforts to control infectious disease and puts the blame of infection and the responsibility to encourage vaccination on cram schools,” Lee Yu-won, head of the Korea Association of Hagwon, said in a press release.
“It is impossible for students to go through PCR tests multiple times to go to cram schools or study rooms. Cram schools are different from other multiuse facilities as they can keep tight track of visitors.”
The South Korean government stated that they decided to expand the vaccine pass system to younger people after learning of the new omicron variant. Whilst the government initially allowed teens to get vaccinated as they choose, the new wave of infections and the omicron variant changed the situation.
“We will have to persuade students and their parents on being vaccinated,” South Korean Vice Minister of Education Jung Jong-Chul said.
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