Kim Jong-min, 35, owner of a cafe in Bucheon, Gyeonggi, recently launched a campaign offering free coffee to unvaccinated people.
“The government’s vaccine pass system triggers discrimination between those vaccinated and those who choose not to be vaccinated,” Kim told the Korea JoongAng Daily on Wednesday. “Some are kicked out of restaurants and cafes just for not being vaccinated.”
“It’s not bad that people choose not to get the vaccine,” Kim added. “I started the campaign because I wanted to encourage them not to be intimidated by their decision.”
Under the government’s vaccine pass policy that took effect on December 13, restaurants, bars, cafes or any other public facility where people congregate are required to check the immunization status of their clients. Only those who can provide proof of their vaccination status at least 14 days after their second injection, or a negative PCR test performed within 48 hours can enter these facilities. Vaccine passes are not required for individuals using these facilities alone.
Customers who violate the policy may be fined 100,000 won ($ 84.50), while the owner of an establishment or store may be fined 1.5 million won. if caught for the first time and 3 million won if caught again.
They will also be subject to a 10-day trade ban if caught violating the policy for the first time, which will increase to 20 days if caught a second time and three months for a third. They will be completely closed if they violate the policy a fourth time.
To avoid possible sanctions, some companies do not accept unvaccinated customers. Many people have shared their experiences of eviction from restaurants and cafes on online communities.
Kim’s campaign has gone viral, drawing the attention of many across the country, especially those who are not vaccinated. Some visit Kim’s cafe to show their support, while others shop from her online and leave words of encouragement on their orders.
“The reason people visit my cafe isn’t just to get a free cup of coffee. Their intention is to support me and my campaign, ”Kim said. “I want unvaccinated people to be confident in their decision. ”
Kim has distributed around 30 free coffees so far.
But he added that he had also received criticism from people who argue that vaccinations are essential not only for themselves but for others. Kim had posted a notice in his cafe that said “Unvaccinated people don’t carry viruses,” but had to withdraw it at the request of Coffee Bay, the franchise company he contracted with.
“I’ll never get the vaccine,” Kim said. “It normally takes 7 to 10 years to develop a new drug because it takes time to see side effects. Making a safe vaccine in just a year doesn’t make sense to me at all. ”
“I think the government has its own good reasons for proposing Covid-19 measures, and I respect them,” Kim said. “But what I can say with confidence is that the vaccine pass system is bogus. Although I have withdrawn the notice, I will continue the campaign until the government withdraws the policy.
People like Kim argue that they cannot fully trust the safety of Covid-19 vaccines. About 13,500 people are believed to have died after receiving vaccines on December 1. However, only two of those cases were recognized as vaccine-related deaths by the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency. Some 1,200 people have had serious reactions after being vaccinated, but only five have been recognized as related to the vaccine by the government.
Others choose not to get the vaccine for personal reasons, such as pregnant women who are worried about the effects the vaccine might have on their babies, and some who are studying for big exams and worried the side effects might bother. their schedule.
“My doctor has told me not to get the vaccine before giving birth, but people are treating me like I’m selfish and potentially carrying the virus,” said a 31-year-old pregnant woman named Jin who lives in Gangnam District, in the south of the country. Seoul. “The government has not included pregnant women in the exempt category, so I have to do a PCR test every time I have an appointment. The queue takes at least an hour each time.
“I once showed the negative result to enter a restaurant and the owner jumped at my throat to find out why I had not been vaccinated,” Jin told the Korea JoongAng Daily. “The owner’s attitude was very offensive. It is no exaggeration to say that I cannot lead a normal life since the introduction of the vaccine pass system. ”
On December 28, a woman in her twenties, who said she was not vaccinated and was looking for work, filed an online petition on the Maison Bleue, demanding that the government remove the vaccine pass system which “unleashes hatred and discrimination”.
“Unvaccinated people are not the virus, please don’t have to feel guilty when we socialize with vaccinated people,” the post read.
She added that she was not offered a job after it was revealed that she was not vaccinated during the final interview.
“Please allow all people, whether vaccinated or not, to overcome the situation completely rather than showing hatred and aversion towards each other. ”
There were over 200 messages demanding the removal of the vaccine pass system on the Blue House petition website as of December 29.
Some 500 self-employed workers staged a protest in central Seoul’s Gwanghwamun on December 22, urging the government to remove the vaccine pass system. The protest was organized by the Korean Federation of Microenterprises.
BY SARAH CHEA [[email protected]]