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South Korea expresses strong regret over Japan's COVID-19 entry restrictions Updated: 2020-03-06 17:59:12 KST

South Korea has expressed strong regret over Japan's latest decision to quarantine all passengers arriving from the country.
We have responses coming from the the nation's top office as well as the foreign affairs ministry today.
Arirang News' correspondents are live at the presidential Blue House and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
First off, Minji, South Korea's National Security Council held a meeting following Japan's decision to restrict entry on travelers from South Korea.
The members vowed to consider necessary measures based on the principle of reciprocity.
It's a strong form of dissatisfaction we're seeing from the Blue House, is it not, Minji?

Right, Connyoung. A strong response from the National Security Council today.
It blasted Japan's decision, expressing deep regret and saying that South Korea would review necessary countermeasures.
The meeting came just a day after Japan said it would tighten travel restrictions against people arriving from South Korea -- which entails them having to go into quarantine for two weeks.
The NSC said it's unacceptable that Tokyo took such unreasonable action without any prior consultations with the South Korean government.
Now the council didn't stop there -- it criticized Japan's passive and ambigious approach to COVID-19 -- saying that Tokyo is losing the trust of the international community.
In contrast, it pointed out that South Korea is strictly managing the situation through a scientific and transparent quarantine system that's been praised globally.

Junghee, based on what does the South Korean government see this decision as being far from just and fair?

Seoul's Foreign Affairs Minister Kang Kyung-wha explained it herself when the ministry summoned Japanese ambassador to South Korea, Koji Tomita, to lodge a formal complaint, so listen in.

"I express deep regret that the Japanese government has taken such unjust measures. And it's beyond deplorable that Japan went ahead with these measures without any notices in prior, despite our continued calls to refrain from additional measures. Japan's recent measures are far from friendly and unscientific and I strongly urge the Japanese government to see the facts and situations objectively and quickly remove these measures."

"I listened very attentively to what the Minister has said. I'll report exactly what was said to my home country."

South Korea says that even though the two countries had been communicating, Japan showed NO signs of tightening entry restrictions on travelers coming from South Korea until the very last minute when Japanese media reported about them.
So it was a very abrupt announcement from Seoul's point of view.
The nation's Foreign Ministry sees that the measures from Japan as unfair because South Korea has taken no entry restrictions on travelers coming from Japan -- though it sees Japan's quarantine measures are rather not quite transparent nor aggressive.
Seoul says Japan's entry restrictions on Seoul are excessive and go far beyond Tokyo's quarantine and medical capabilities to deal with the virus.
It says it cannot help but question whether Tokyo has other intentions instead of just quarantine because Seoul's efforts to contain COVID-19 have been well-evaluated by the international community.

I want to go back to our Kim Minji at the Blue House. Minji, there are concerns that COVID-19 could ignite yet another a row between the two neighboring countries if South Korea decides to take a tit-for-tat approach. What's the Blue House' take on this?

The top office didn't elaborate on what reciprocal measures are being considered -- but some suggest South Korea might also restrict the entry of people arriving from Japan or designate the country as a risk zone for infectious diseases.
The atmosphere here is pretty tense -- Blue House officials said that Japan's actions are hard to understand given that South Korea hasn't taken any such action itself and they said it's critical to make joint efforts to tackle the disease as neighbors.
But there are concerns that the latest development could further strain bilateral relations already soured by historical and trade disputes.
As to why the Blue House was responding to Japan in particular when other countries, like Vietnam or Australia have imposed similar measures -- an official here said the situation with those countries is different from the one with Japan given their relationships and the state of the outbreak in their countries.
Seoul hasn't placed corresponding measures on other nations.
But NSC officials today did discuss ways to ease the inconvenience and disadvantages facing South Koreans living or traveling overseas given that more than 100 countries have either imposed entry bans or tougher quarantine regulations against the country.
Now, Japan's heightened restrictions take effect from Monday so we'll have to see if South Korea goes ahead with an unprecedented strong response.

Meanwhile, Jung-hee, as over 100 countries ramp up entry rules on travelers coming from South Korea, Seoul's foreign minister invited diplomatic missions in the country to explain to them the COVID-19 situation in South Korea and Seoul's efforts to contain the disease.
What message did she have to deliver?

Conn-young,
Robust, thorough and transparent -- those were the words Seoul's Foreign Minister used to describe South Korea's current fight against the novel coronavirus.
Representatives of 112 embassies and international organizations came to the Foreign Ministry this afternoon and among them, there were 47 countries including the U.S., Canada, Italy, Mexico and Iran.
Here, Seoul's Foreign Minister stressed the fact that South Korea has been open and transparent about its quarantine efforts.
She highlighted that the reason why South Korea is seeing a rapid spike in the number of confirmed cases is because the country has (quote)"the best diagnostic capabilities" and is testing 18-thousand cases per day.
She also introduced that South Korea is running drive-through testing stations, has a special entry procedure for travelers coming from China, and does three fever checks on people who're leaving the country.
She made her request to the missions. Take a listen:

"I do hope that you'll continue to maintain trust in our approach to this health crisis and then advise your governments of the very thorough measures that we are taking and to be not excessive. We understand your necessity for disease control at home depending upon your level of capacities but also make any travel restrictions on travelers coming from Korea commensurate with what we're doing here and what the preparedness is back home."

Jung-hee, on another note, the Chinese Ambassador to South Korea, Xing Haiming, was just spotted at the foreign ministry.
What for was he there?

Conn-young, we do not have anything confirmed yet on Xing Haiming's visit here.
But reporters here asked the Chinese envoy and he said China wants to cooperate with South Korea to overcome the outbreak.
He added Beijing plans to provide assistance to South Korea but didn't reveal any further about that.
He then met with the Deputy Minister for Political Affairs, the results of which we'll have to wait and see.

A lot of diplomatic efforts underway as this country as the many parts of the world battle the novel coronavirus outbreak. Arirang News' Kim Minji at the presidential Blue House, Oh Jung-hee at the foreign affairs ministry - great coverage to you both.
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