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Gov’t should combat COVID-19 and revive the economy

Posted January. 01, 2021 07:51,   

Updated January. 01, 2021 07:51


COVID-19 is spreading like wild fire within South Korean prison facilities. As of Thursday, the Seoul Dongbu Detention Center reported 918 confirmed cases - more than a third of its prisoners and officers. A COVID-19 patient also died in the Seoul Detention Center on Thursday, following the first victim reported on Sunday from the Seoul Dongbu Detention Center.

With such urgency, the Justice Ministry announced to put Level 3 social distancing in place across all kinds of correctional facilities for two weeks until Jan. 13. According to the rules, the authorities minimize the chances of physical contact between prisoners; limit lawyer visits; supply three KF94 face masks per week to each of them; and test every new prisoner. But it is too late. The measures do not seem effective and efficient to make things better. It is truly terrible that it took as many as 34 days for the government to announce countermeasures following the first COVID-19 case reported on Nov. 27 in the Seoul Dongbu Detention Center.

The government made a belated decision to carry out an all-out test on every prisoner and personnel at the Incheon and Suwon Detention Centers. As their inner space is designed just as that in the Seoul Dongbu detention center, resembling a condominium, chances are that COVID-19 can spread rapidly. A complete test on new prisoners to correctional facilities should have been done earlier as they can transmit the contagious virus.

Vice Justice Minister Lee Yong-gu made apologetic remarks to the public twice on Thursday. However, no one has come forward to say that mass transmission is all of his or her responsibility. The Justice Ministry and the Seoul city government are passing the buck to each other for belatedly performing a complete test on the Seoul Dongbu Detention Center.

Meanwhile, the Justice Ministry showed a super-speed response to the identification of one of the prisoners in the Seoul Dongbu Detention Center holding a placard writing "Help” out of the window, explaining that it is illegal to tear a mosquito screen to put his hand out of the window. In principle, it is against the law that a prisoner damages any part of a correctional facility building. However, the government should first ask itself how responsible it is supposed to be for leaving things bad enough that prisoners are desperately trying to seek for external help not minding violating rules.