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Vaccine pass mandate applied to big stores on Monday

Visitors to a local department store in Seoul check in with a QR code. (Yonhap)
Visitors to a local department store in Seoul check in with a QR code. (Yonhap)
South Korea‘s vaccine pass mandate, which requires people to show proof of vaccination or a negative PCR test conducted within 48 hours to shop in large retail and department stores, became effective on Monday.

According to the government, there will be a one-week grace period until Jan. 16 to reduce confusion.

After the grace period, penalties can be levied on people who enter those facilities with expired vaccine passes, as well as facilities owners who accept them.

People who go into a facility with an expired pass can be fined up to 100,000 won ($83). Fines of up to 3 million won can be applied on businesses, and they can also be suspended after several violations.

However, people who work at large retail stores and department stores will be exempted from the vaccine pass mandate, according to the government. People aged 18 or under are also not included in the mandate.

The vaccine pass mandate on large retail stores and department stores can be adjusted in the future, in accordance with the court’s decision on ongoing legal challenges against the mandate.

Previously, 1,023 people — including doctors, religious people and citizens — filed against the country’s health authority and government officials, arguing that the vaccine pass mandate violates human rights.

The Seoul Administrative Court on Friday held a hearing on a legal challenge but has not made its ruling on the case yet.

If the court rules in favor of the plaintiffs, the vaccine pass mandate can be suspended at many public places. They include cafes, restaurants, movie theaters, libraries and grocery stores.

Meanwhile, a local court on Jan. 4 temporarily suspended the vaccine pass mandate at cram schools, reading rooms and book cafes, saying that the mandate infringes on students’ learning rights.

By Shim Woo-hyun (ws@heraldcorp.com)
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