Many Teachers Among Itaewon's Party Crowds

      May 14, 2020 12:56

      Some 158 foreign and Korean teachers have visited the cosmopolitan clubs and bars of Seoul's Itaewon and Sinchon with their prominent gay scene, which are threatening to emerge as a new hotbed of coronavirus infections.

      None of them have tested positive for the virus yet, but fears are growing that they could be passing the virus on to their students when schools reopen.

      According to the Seoul Metropolitan Office of Education on Wednesday, 53 foreign and 105 Korean teachers and other school personnel have been confirmed to have visited clubs, bars and saunas in Iatewon, Sinchon and Gangnam between April 29 and May 6.

      Fourteen of them went to the same Itaewon club where the first confirmed case there was identified. Of 79 school personnel who were tested for the virus, 46 tested negative.

      People wait in line to test for coronavirus at a makeshift facility in Seoul on Wednesday. /Yonhap

      Teachers and other school personnel from other parts of the country also descended on the party town over the long weekend as the lockdown eased -- 60 Korean and foreign teachers from Gwangju and South Jeolla Province, 44 foreign teachers from North Chungcheong Province, 34 Korean and foreign teachers from Busan, and 61 foreign teachers from Gangwon Province.

      The Education Ministry is still trying to find out exactly how many teachers in schools and crammers as well as high-school seniors let their hair down in Itaewon over the period.

      Some lied about their jobs when they were traced, while others may have slipped through the dragnet altogether.

      "We know that parents are really worried about their children going back to school," Vice Health Minister Kim Gang-lip said. "It's doubtful whether it's realistically possible to test all of the 600,000-plus school teachers and personnel given the testing capacity of quarantine authorities."

      "We're considering various alternatives, including random sample tests and voluntary testing," he added.

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