NATIONAL

[Newsmaker] Jeju sues coronavirus-carrying travelers

By Korea Herald
  • Published : Mar 30, 2020 - 15:33
  • Updated : Apr 2, 2020 - 11:49

Gangnam District Chief Jeong Sun-kyun apologizes for coronavirus controversy caused by Jeju Island visit of virus-infected student and her mother on March 29. (Yonhap)

The southern province of Jeju Island said Monday it has filed a lawsuit against two travelers who tested positive for coronavirus after a five-day trip of the island.

The lawsuit, filed by the provincial government and six local businesses, is seeking over 100 million won ($82,000) in damages and business losses. 

The defendants are a 19-year-old who attends a university in the US and her mother. They traveled to Jeju five days after the daughter returned from the US, and tested positive for the virus infection the day after the trip.  

“Despite having symptoms from day one (of their five-day trip here), they went ahead (with their itinerary). As a result, more than 20 businesses were forced to temporarily close and over 90 residents were placed under quarantine,” Jeju Province Gov. Won Hee-ryong said in a briefing.

The damage claim is likely to shoot up, as more are expected to join the lawsuit, he added.

“If any Jeju resident is found to have contracted the virus from the two, the province will file a criminal complaint,” he warned.

Jeju Province’s action comes as residents vociferously objected to “selfish” travelers who take advantage of their efforts to keep the island virus-free.

“People are saying this is the best time to travel Jeju. They say it’s cheap and there’s no need to wear a mask. This makes me so angry,” reads a comment on a Jeju moms‘ community on web portal Naver. 

The region has reported nine coronavirus cases so far. The first four were all isolated cases linked to Daegu, the city hardest hit by the virus in Korea. After the four, Jeju had no new cases for 20 days until last week when a string of cases involving people returning from overseas trips. 

The teenager returned from the US on March 15 when a two-week isolation was only a recommendation.

She and her mother, along with others, flew to Jeju on March 20, and visited more than 40 places during their five-day stay. They visited a clinic on March 23 but went on with the trip before returning to Seoul on March 24. They got tested the next day. 

According to information provided by Seoul’s Gangnam-gu Office, the daughter developed symptoms on March 20, the day they arrived in Jeju.

By Korea Herald Staff (khnews@heraldcorp.com)