The Korea Herald


Some 200 South Koreans forced into isolation in Vietnam

By Ahn Sung-mi

Published : March 1, 2020 - 16:27

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South Koreans isolated at a military facility in Vietnam. (Yonhap) South Koreans isolated at a military facility in Vietnam. (Yonhap)

The Foreign Ministry said Sunday it is in talks with Vietnamese authorities concerning over 200 citizens placed in isolation upon arrival there without prior notice.

According to the South Korean Embassy in Vietnam, there are 127 nationals quarantined in northern parts of the country including Hanoi, 75 in Ho Chi Minh City and 21 in Danang, spread across military facilities, hospitals and some at the airport.

The Korean travelers were removed to separate facilities without prior notice, despite being asymptomatic and traveling from areas other than the banned Daegu and North Gyeongsang Province, the region hit hardest by the coronavirus spread here. Their passports have been confiscated by Vietnamese authorities, according to local media reports.

"Embassy officials are providing consular support to the people detained in the facilities, and seeking ways to help them,” a senior official at the ministry said on condition of anonymity. “Most of people who are quarantined are residing in Vietnam for education and business purposes, and have not expressed a desire to return to Korea yet. But if they wish to return, we will come up with measures.”

The ministry also called in Vietnam’s top envoy in Korea to lodge a protest over the country’s latest measure, and requested to prevent it from recurring in the future.

Effective Thursday, Vietnam banned the entry of foreign nationals who have traveled to the southeastern city of Daegu and neighboring North Gyeongsang Province, the area that accounts for 87 percent -- 3,260 cases -- of the total infected number of 3,736 as of Sunday.

For arrivals from other regions in here, Vietnam said they are required to go into self-quarantine for two weeks, but instead, authorities have been transporting Koreans into isolated facilities. 

Vietnam also suspended a visa-waiver program for Korean visitors on Saturday.

Separately, an Asiana Airlines flight to Hanoi had to turn back en route after Vietnamese authorities banned it from landing at Hanoi’s Noi Bai Airport.

Asiana Airlines flight 729 departed at 10:10 a.m. on Saturday, but at 10:30 a.m., Vietnamese authorities denied it permission to land, and instead instructed it to land at Van Don International Airport, about 140 kilometers from Hanoi.

Asiana decided to cancel the flight and return to Seoul, as the carrier had no history of using the suggested airport.

Vietnamese authorities also prohibited Korean airliners from using an airport in Ho Chi Minh City, and instead to land at Can Tho International Airport, a four-hour drive away.

Due to ceased flights between Korea and Vietnam, Asiana Airlines and Korean Airlines have been sending empty planes with crew members, known as ferry flights, to Vietnam to bring back Korean passengers, before the country halts all visitors from here.

Vietnam’s stringent move concerns Korea, as it could spread even further to other regions. The measure arrives despite Seoul’s call to refrain from “excessive measures,” with Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha calling up her Vietnamese counterpart to retract the move. 

As of Sunday, over 78 countries are imposing entry restrictions and special quarantine measures on those traveling from Korea.

By Ahn Sung-mi (