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[Newsmaker] Seoul agrees to accept foreign vaccination records

Change announced after embassies unite to support foreign residents inoculated overseas

A screen capture of a tweet by the US Embassy in Seoul. (US Embassy Seoul)
A screen capture of a tweet by the US Embassy in Seoul. (US Embassy Seoul)
South Korea is devising a system to accept foreigners’ overseas vaccination records, a government official confirmed to The Korea Herald on Tuesday.

“We’re drafting a ‘vaccine status form’ for foreign nationals vaccinated abroad,” an official at the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency said.

The plan will leave more people in the country eligible for booster shots, with more details to be announced Thursday, the official added.

The comments came just hours after a group of embassies, led by the US, urged the Korean government to take urgent action to recognize foreign residents’ overseas vaccination records.

In a joint statement issued via Twitter, the missions stressed, “They should have same access rights to public facilities as those Korean nationals fully vaccinated overseas.”

The six embassies that posted the same tweet are the US, the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, New Zealand and India.

In separate tweets later on Tuesday, some EU member states joined them in calling for “urgent action” on the issue from the Korean government. These included France, Italy and Ireland, alongside the Delegation of the European Union.

It is rare for embassies to forge a united front and publicly voice their concerns about a host government’s policy.

Foreign nationals who have completed inoculation overseas are unable to register their vaccination history with the Korean authorities. While this has been a source of complaints for months now, recent updates to the vaccine pass system in Korea have added urgency to the issue.

As foreign vaccinations are not recognized for non-Korean nationals, they are ineligible for vaccine passes. Without them, they are not allowed in cafes, restaurants, libraries or cinemas under a new rule that came into effect Monday.

The US Embassy, on its official website, describes the situation as “discriminatory” and says it brings “undue hardship to US citizens vaccinated outside Korea.”

So far, the local authorities’ response largely centered on the difficulty of verifying vaccine records from foreign countries. 

A poster outside a gym in Jongno District, Seoul asks people to show a vaccination pass on Dec. 5. (Yonhap)
A poster outside a gym in Jongno District, Seoul asks people to show a vaccination pass on Dec. 5. (Yonhap)
But in late October, they allowed Korean nationals vaccinated abroad to submit foreign vaccination certificates and be recognized as vaccinated just like those who received their shots at home. Foreign nationals vaccinated abroad have not been allowed access to the same process.

“We’ll continue to seek a satisfactory response on this question. Disappointing and frustrating that none has so far been forthcoming,” UK Ambassador Simon Smith said in a separate tweet Tuesday.

Australian Ambassador Catherine Raper said the Australian Embassy has asked the Korean government for the urgent recognition of foreign nationals who have received their shots overseas.

By Yim Hyun-su (hyunsu@heraldcorp.com)
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