I’m privileged to live in a country with a high level of trust in our (fair and transparent) authorities and an equally high willingness to take the COVID vaccine, which is offered for free to anyone over 12 (I’m talking about Denmark by the way). I myself am currently between my first and second dose of the Moderna vaccine and cannot wait until next Saturday when I’ll finally join the ranks of the fully vaccinated.
I feel like I’ve been very cooperative during the pandemic. I’ve limited my social circle to a couple of close friends, I’ve RSVP’ed no to family gatherings that I’ve deemed too risky except the funeral of my brother-in-law in March – which was still very limited in the midst of lockdown. That’s the only time that I felt that COVID was not the top priority. I had to be there for my sister and I had to hug the people who came. Other than that, I’ve been your poster girl for COVID prevention compliance. I’ve dutifully donned my mask when entering buses, trains and shops, I’ve washed and sanitized my hands and I’ve readily conducted all of my teaching online. Talk about learning on the job!
So, where am I going with all this? While next Saturday is certainly an important milestone, my fear is that being fully vaccinated will in fact change very little in terms of possibilities. Sure, I’ll feel safer, but will the world be open to someone like me? That depends.
All through lockdowns one and two and … anyway who’s even counting at this point?… I’ve been longing for the day when I can return to Korea. Even just for a short while. Up until the pandemic I enjoyed visa free entry to Korea as an EU citizen with the possibility to stay for up to 90 days. This visa waiver program has been revoked since March last year and there are no signs of it being reenforced any time soon. On top of having to apply for a visa, all foreigners – regardless of vaccination status – have to stay for 14 days in a government quarantine hotel. Compare this to a short prison sentence if you will. The comparison is easy to make – you stay in one place 24 hours a day, you have no human contact, you only eat what’s been served for you, and you are not allowed outside. How is this not a prison sentence? Side note: As you probably suspect I’ve never actually been to prison but I possess enough imagination skills to picture what it must be like and in my head it’s pretty much the same as quarantine in Korea.
Here’s what really ticks me off. Only foreigners have to do this. *Sarcastic tone* Because we all know that non-Koreans are waaaaay more likely to contract or spread COVID! Koreans who come home from overseas travel can stay in their own home, and if vaccinated don’t even have to quarantine. Residents outside of Korea who have either parents or children in Korea are equally exempt from this Orwellian quarantine scheme.
In the meantime I – a fully vaccinated Danish woman, with a negative COVID test before departure and upon landing – will be denied entry into Korea without a visa-requiring valid purpose for visiting. With such a visa, two jabs of the vaccine, and a clean COVID test, I would still have to submit to 14 days in a prison-like hotel with potentially lasting damage to my mental health. 이게 말이 돼?? I’m sure that you’d find me banging manically at the door yelling 열려라 참깨!! within the first couple of hours.
Even though it breaks my heart not to be able to see the country and people I love so dearly, I choose to stay away from Korea until the authorities come to their senses and realize the xenophobic and downright racist discrimination in their misguided efforts to keep the pandemic at bay.
Korea, I promise I won’t pose any danger to you just because I’m a foreigner. I’ll see you when you’re ready to let me in again.