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Japanese gets suspended prison term for breaching self-isolation rules


A Japanese man who became the first foreigner arrested by South Korean police in May for violating mandatory self-isolation rules aimed at containing the coronavirus was freed on Wednesday after being given a suspended jail sentence by a local court.

The Seoul Western District Court sentenced the 23-year-old Japanese national to an imprisonment of six months, suspended for two years, after finding him guilty of breaching the Infectious Disease Control and Prevention Act.

He was formally put under arrest on May 21 for leaving his designated self-isolation accommodation in western Seoul eight times without permission after entering South Korea on a work visa on April 2. At that time, he received a negative result from a COVID-19 test conducted at Incheon International Airport but was ordered to self-isolate until April 15 under the current law.

But he was caught leaving his self-isolation place without permission on eight occasions to visit restaurants, an animal hospital and other places. The Japanese became the first foreigner to be put under pre-trial detention for violating the self-isolation rules.

In the previous hearing, prosecutors demanded a six-month prison sentence for the Japanese national, saying his lack of understanding of Korean law was taken into consideration. The man also asked for leniency, saying he was deeply reflecting on the inconvenience and trouble he had caused other people, while his lawyer argued that he misunderstood South Korea's quarantine rules.

"The accused visited public-use facilities despite having been ordered to self-isolate. His act deserves much criticism, but his repentance, admission of wrongdoing, absence of infections traced to him and lack of a criminal record in South Korea were taken into consideration in determining his sentence," the court said.

Under the compulsory quarantine measures, all entrants from overseas -- both Koreans and foreigners -- are obliged to self-isolate at their residences or government-designated facilities for 14 days. (Yonhap)