Five soldiers of the 35th Cheonghae unit aboard the Chungmugong Yi Sun-shin (4,400 tons) who arrived in the Gulf of Aden are found out to have not been vaccinated. The unit plans to trade places with the 34th unit aboard the Munmu the Great where a mass COVID-19 infection occurred. Concerns are growing as dozens of soldiers in the Hanbit and Dongmyeong units dispatched to South Sudan and Lebanon, respectively, are known to be carrying out missions without vaccination.
The military authorities said on Tuesday that five voluntarily unvaccinated soldiers were aboard the Chungmugong Yi Sun-shin that left Busan last month. They all tested negative in the PCR before departure. The rest of some 300 crews are fully vaccinated. “They are permitted to board the ship as essential staff for vessel operation even though they are not vaccinated,” said a military insider.
Some 50 soldiers in the 13th Hanbit unit dispatched in January have not been vaccinated. Around 30 soldiers in the 25th Dongmyeong unit dispatched in May have also not been vaccinated. The Hanbit unit that departed without getting a shot and the Dongmyeong unit departed after getting the first AstraZeneca shot are not fully vaccinated with the help of the UN forces. Those unvaccinated reportedly refused to get a shot.
But some point out that it is not appropriate to include unvaccinated staff in a dispatch unit that carries out a long-term mission overseas where COVID-19 control is not so tight. They say vaccination should be a qualification to apply to a dispatch unit after vaccination began in Korea this year. The Cheonghae unit is especially vulnerable to COVID-19 infection as it visits local ports overseas about 10 times to load military supplies and has a sealed living environment.
Kyu-Jin Shin firstname.lastname@example.org