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Public divided over expanding China entry ban

Kim Jin-tae (center) of the conservative main opposition United Future Party holds a press conference in front of Cheong Wa Dae to urge the government to roll out a wider entry ban covering all regions of China, Feb. 23, 2020. (Yonhap)
Kim Jin-tae (center) of the conservative main opposition United Future Party holds a press conference in front of Cheong Wa Dae to urge the government to roll out a wider entry ban covering all regions of China, Feb. 23, 2020. (Yonhap)
Public opinion on the introduction of a comprehensive entry ban on travelers from China appears divided along partisan lines, with a slight majority viewing it as necessary to South Korea’s fight against the novel coronavirus.

According to the latest survey by local pollster Realmeter, released Monday, 55.6 percent of the respondents supported a wider ban, while 40.9 percent said existing measures were strong enough.

Currently, Korea denies entry to foreign nationals traveling from China’s Hubei province, the epicenter of the global COVID-19 outbreak. Visitors entering Korea from elsewhere in China undergo separate quarantine procedures.

Opposition politicians have been calling on the government to ban all Chinese nationals from entering Korea since the virus emerged in Wuhan. They claim the Korean government’s inaction led to the outbreak here.

Almost 9 out of 10 supporters of the conservative main opposition United Future Party favored a wider ban that covers all of China. But 7 out of 10 supporters of the liberal ruling Democratic Party of Korea were against expanding the entry restrictions.

By region, support for the more drastic option was strongest in Daegu and adjacent North Gyeongsang Province, the areas hit hardest by COVID-19, at 66.1 percent, followed by Busan at 64.9 percent. Daegu and North Gyeongsang Province are traditional conservative strongholds.

In the more politically neutral cities of Seoul and Daejeon, opinion was almost evenly split, with proponents of a China-wide entry ban outnumbering opponents within the margin of error.

The poll was commissioned by local broadcaster YTN and has a 95 percent confidence level with a margin of error of plus or minus 4.4 percentage points. It was conducted on 501 adults nationwide.

By Choi Si-young (siyoungchoi@heraldcorp.com)
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