South Korean Omicron Victim Criminally Indicted for “Lying” During Screening Interview

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    South Korea’s Yonhap News Agency reported that unidentified South Korean legal sources had provided the outlet with an unsubstantiated story of a woman's journey to a COVID-related criminal indictment. According to the news site, the 40-year-old woman, who lives in Incheon located 40 kilometers to the west of Seoul, was arrested without detention, allegedly for breaking the [South Korea] Infectious Disease Control Act by not fully disclosing her travel details during an interview with local authorities after testing positive for Omicron in November 2021. She and her husband, a church pastor, had traveled previously to Nigeria before testing positive for the variant of the virus. The woman allegedly told authorities she’d had a quarantine taxi ride after arriving at Incheon International Airport, when she was actually picked up by an associate. The wife and mother-in-law were later discovered to be the cause of a large cluster of infections at their church.

    South Korean police have previously been accused by residents and citizens of committing similar offenses, violating the country's Infectious Disease Control Act throughout the coronavirus outbreak that started in March 2020. Incheon police detained a 24-year-old man in July of 2020 “on charges of violating the law on prevention and control of infectious diseases, and sent the case to the prosecution saying he should be indicted,” Yonhap reported. The police in the port town accused the man of not assisting the efforts of local authorities to trace contacts and, consequently, of aggravating a local COVID outbreak. The man is alleged to have told state-sponsored contact tracers–that is, people who determine the location of suspected or confirmed coronavirus sufferers–that he was not employed when he was employed “and did not report that he taught at a cram school [tutoring facility] in Incheon,” according to Yonhap.

    “Local health authorities, who were dubious of his report, asked the police to secure his mobile phone records, which delayed the tracing process that could have prevented additional infections,” the Seoul-based news agency reported.

    When it was reporting on South Korea's efforts to fight the coronavirus in October 2020, the New York Times observed that police officers from across the country had in the past “asked prosecutors to indict 13 people accused of providing false information, including several who lied to epidemiological investigators about their health or the places they visited while potentially carrying the virus.”

    The South Korean federal government has granted itself extraordinary power to invade the privacy of individuals under the guise of tracing contacts during the pandemic.

    “In addition to making some personal data public, the authorities sometimes use it to send text messages to people whose cellular data history indicates they were in proximity to an infected person. Other than China, South Korea is virtually the only country in the world whose government has the power to collect such data at will during an epidemic,” the New York Times revealed in October. “In the initial desperate months of the pandemic, [South Korean] government websites uploaded a detailed sketch of each patient's daily life until they were diagnosed and isolated. The government did not reveal patients' names but sometimes released revealing data such as their addresses and employers.”

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