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Restaurant employee breaking self-isolation rules chooses imprisonment over fine

Restaurant employee breaking self-isolation rules chooses imprisonment over fine

Posted December. 21, 2020 07:23,   

Updated December. 21, 2020 07:23


"She may be sentenced to a fine by law. However, as she does not prefer it, I sentence her to imprisonment,” said Yoon Bong-hak, a judge in the 6th criminal division in the Gwangju District Court on Thursday. He sentenced a 50-year-old restaurant employee, who was under indictment for leaving her place during the self-isolation period, to four months in prison, suspended to one year's probation.

The woman working at a restaurant received a notification from the local health center on Aug. 14 saying that she was subject to self-isolation. The message notified her that a COVID-19 patient visited the restaurant where she worked on Aug. 12, thus requiring her to self-isolate until Aug. 26. However, she was caught going outside her house in Gwangju, to visit a restaurant in Seo-gu District on Aug. 15.  

With the strengthening of the Infectious Disease Control and Preservation Act, anyone who leaves his or her place for self-isolation without permission shall be subject to a 10-million-won fine or less than a year in prison. The court sentences a violator to imprisonment if he or she infringes on self-isolation rules repetitively or visits crowded facilities such as wedding halls. However, in most cases, a violation of self-isolation rules ends up with a fine.

Seemingly, the restaurant employee in question requested imprisonment as she may find it hard to pay a penalty of several million won. The health authorities said that she was struggling to make ends meet by living on daily pays while working as a restaurant part-timer. "We assume that she visited another restaurant to get a new job. Paying a fine might be a greater burden to her than going to prison,” said a health official.

Judge Yoon gave her a probation, saying, “Her crime is not considered minor but she admits her criminal act and expresses her regrets and apology. Also, I took into consideration the fact that she tested negative for COVID-19 without any risk of infection occurring.”

Hyeong-Ju Lee peneye09@donga.com