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[Newsmaker] Is vaccine pass constitutional? Korea is about to find out

Korea’s Constitutional Court to review COVID-19 pass

Mobile phones are installed at a restaurant in Seoul to check visitors' COVID-19 vaccine pass through a quick-response code service, on Dec. 13. (Yonhap)
Mobile phones are installed at a restaurant in Seoul to check visitors' COVID-19 vaccine pass through a quick-response code service, on Dec. 13. (Yonhap)
South Korea’s Consitutional Court is set to review whether the COVID-19 pass is constitutional. 

The Constitutional Court said Tuesday evening its full bench of nine justices would review the constitutionality of the pass’s enactment. The court’s full bench is usually summoned when a case is deemed to hold legitimacy.

The COVID-19 pass, or vaccine pass, was implemented nationwide on Dec. 13 and requires people to present digitized proof of full vaccination or a negative test result issued within 48 hours to enter public places including restaurants and other food outlets.

According to the government announcements so far, the passes will expire six months after the completion of a vaccine series. A booster vaccine would extend its validity for another six months. While its use is currently limited to adults 18 and older, minors as young as 12 will also be subject to the system from February next year.

The pass is available as a smartphone-generated QR code on Naver and Kakao platforms, and also as a Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency mobile application. Paper passes are not accepted.

Earlier this month, the court received a submission from a group of 453 people, including high school students, challenging the constitutionality of the pass.

The group said in a statement that the pass, in restricting the freedom of movement among other aspects, was tantamount to a vaccine mandate. The group said just four of them were fully vaccinated, with the rest either partially vaccinated or not vaccinated at all. 

The case has been filed against the Korean government and all 17 of the municipalities around the country.

According to a Gallup poll conducted Dec. 6-7, 76.8 percent of 1,006 respondents ages 18 and up said they support the use of the vaccine pass in order to return to normal life, while 20 percent said it was discriminatory.

To date, 82 percent of 51 million people in Korea have been fully vaccinated, according to official statistics updated Tuesday at midnight.



By Kim Arin (arin@heraldcorp.com)
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