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Sogang University under fire for forcing students to sign COVID-19 pledge

(Screen capture)
(Screen capture)
Sogang University, one of Seoul’s elite schools, has come under fire for forcing students living in dormitories to sign a pledge that would hold them both financially and legally responsible when they are infected with COVID-19 from visiting high-risk areas.

According to the school’s online student community, two dormitories started requiring its residents to sign the “agreement” after the first infection case was confirmed in one of the buildings on March 25.

“If I get infected with COVID-19 from visiting high-risk areas, I agree to be held liable for any financial loss resulting from my infection, and be held responsible under the civil and criminal law,” reads the agreement written in Korean, English and Chinese.

The list of the “high-risk areas” included pubs, karaoke establishments, indoor sports facilities, internet cafes, concert halls and dance studios.

The controversial agreement came after the school reported a total of eight fresh COVID-19 cases among students staying in the dorm rooms over the past weeks.

Following the discovery, the school decided to have all the residents, about 580 students, get tested for the virus. The school also imposed a ban on visitors until April 5 and announced a switch to online-only classes until April 9.

But students protested the agreement, saying it infringes on their human rights as the coercive measure would force students to stay locked inside their dorms if they refused to sign it. They also criticized the school for avoiding responsibility and mishandling the mass infections.

The university could not be reached for comment Sunday.

It is possible that similar problems could arise in other higher education institutions, as the number of new cases has surged among university students since the new academic year started in March.

Ewha Womans University was forced to ban in-person classes in February after a student tested positive for the coronavirus. Yonsei University also shut down some buildings after two confirmed cases were reported last month.

Many students have criticized the institutions for their delayed response to the COVID-19 resurgence, as they did not fully disclose the routes the infected students took or the places they visited before diagnosis.

Some students have instead voluntarily shared such information through online community sites as a result of the school’s inaction.

By Ko Jun-tae (ko.juntae@heraldcorp.com)
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