‘Bring koreans who are isolated to the country.’
The global proliferation of new corona virus infections (Corona 19) has led to a “mission” in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and other diplomatic missions around the world. It is to ensure that the people who have been stranded abroad, who have been subjected to border blockades and restrictions on movement, are safely returned to Korea.
So far, the government has brought more than 1,700 residents to four locations, including Iran, Peru, and Italy, starting with Corona 19. In the aftermath of Corona 19, the world’s skies have been cut off, and more and more people are being dispatched to Korea by ordering temporary flights. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced on 14 March that it had assisted 14,237 people in 62 countries in the return of residents after the Corona 19 incident.
The “Foreign Transport Operation” is another global phenomenon created by the Corona 19 pandemic crisis. Not only South Korea, but the United States, The United Kingdom, Germany, and Japan are also focusing their efforts on repatriating their own citizens, who have been forced to come and go with the border blockade.
■From charter to air-conditioned, various transportation operations
As mentioned earlier, the government has leased charters on government budgets to bring in isolated citizens abroad. In other regions, the deportation of citizens is mainly on temporary flights operated by national carriers and other countries.
In recent years, “creative” solutions have emerged, such as exporting and importing protective supplies to the local authorities or entering the country with foreign nationals in the process of returning residents. Myanmar, home to a domestic company’s protective clothing manufacturing plant, is a prime example. From 31 last month to 11 February, there were seven temporary flights, including military transport planes, to transport protective clothing from Myanmar, with 693 migrants wishing to return to South Korea. The second special flight, which the Moroccan government had deployed to transport medical supplies in the country, arrived at Incheon International Airport on the morning of The 14th with 32 koreans on board.
There is also an active “national aid” to carry foreigners on temporary flights arranged by the government, or to carry our citizens on aircraft arranged by foreign governments. In Madagascar and Cameroon, the government worked with the United States and Japan to arrange temporary private flights to carry people from various countries. It is also interesting to note that rok-Japan cooperation is showing up, such as the fact that Korean citizens are expected to board temporary flights arranged by Japan on the Bengal Road and Sudan, India, on 14 March.
Now, support for the return of citizens has become a top priority for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, but only two months ago, the pattern was different. Let’s go back to the time of the surge in the number of corona 19 confirmors in Korea in mid-February, mainly in the Daegu and North Gyeonggi regions. The lack of diplomatic power has been on the chopping deed as countries impose disallowed measures to “restrict entry from South Korea” every day. Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha was busy catching phone calls several times a day and expressing regret at the foreign ministers of the other countries for protesting against the restrictions on entry.
Since the Corona 19 Pandemic Declaration, the focus of the government’s response has changed as most countries have introduced border blockades and restrictions on movement. The sudden return of people who were stranded in various parts of the country has emerged as a sudden step-by-step affair. In particular, the relative stability of The Corona 19 in South Korea has resulted in a significant increase in the number of international students and residents wishing to return home.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs established a task force to deal with the issue of supporting the return of The Second Vice Minister, Itaeho, and began preparing measures. It has held more than 20 meetings and checked the status in real time. A government official said, “We have evacuated people from countries where the kidnappings occurred in the past, but we have never conducted evacuation operations around the world.” Another government official said, “It is true that there is no precedent, and that we are responding somewhat to a temporary response, and we expect it to become institutionalized gradually once the experience is accumulated.”
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■What does the United States, The United Kingdom do?
With the proliferation of blockades in the country due to Corona 19, not only South Korea, but also many countries around the world have made repatriation a priority. Among the most prominent countries are the United States and The United Kingdom.
The U.S. Department of State has set up a task force dedicated to the deportation of isolated U.S. citizens abroad, led by Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Ian Brownley. As of July, 45,000 Americans have returned home, with 374 temporary flights from 75 countries. United Airlines (UA) repatriated 12,000 people on 87 temporary flights between March 25 and April 7. In terms of the figures alone, the u.S. repatriation performance is significantly higher.
The UK has signed a memorandum of understanding with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Airlines to work together to transport british citizens. The BBC reports that airlines such as British Airways (BA), Virgin and easyJet are responsible for bringing british citizens from areas where civilian flights are still alive. The UK also allocated 7.5 million pounds (about 11.4 billion won) to charter countries where flights were suspended.
The United States and The United Kingdom have relatively extensive experience in evacuating their own citizens due to terrorism or civil war abroad. The United States, too, is on the rise in the face of an unprecedented epidemic called Corona 19. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the U.S. government’s efforts were “a story that can be found in hollywood scripts,” but social media has been accompanied by a mix of disgruntled Americans.
State Department spokesman Morgan O’Teigers said in a statement released on 24 March that the US government’s concerns are also questioned. “The State Department has never carried out an evacuation operation with geographical width, scope, and complexity. The government is using all possible means to overcome administrative and diplomatic challenges in bringing Americans from hard-to-reach regions and cities in the face of the virus.
■Another “new normal” created by Corona 19?
Currently, the “Foreign Transport Operation”, which is centered around the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, appears to be a temporary phenomenon following the Corona 19 crisis. I don’t know when it will be, but what after Corona 19 ends? Will the task of supporting foreign nationals returning home from the epidemic crisis remain an episode of the past?
Inside and outside the government, it is expected that the scope of protection for foreign nationals will be expanded even in the era of “post-corona.” Some observers say that epidemics, including Corona 19, can be prevalent more frequently and globally than they are now. The fact that the people have increased their expectations for the government is also an element that cannot be easily overlooked.
In particular, the government’s responsibility to protect foreign nationals has increased under the Consular Assistance Act, which comes into effect on January 16 next year. The Consular Assistance Act specifically legislated the duty to protect foreign nationals under Article 2 of article 2 of the Constitution (“The state has a duty to protect foreign nationals as prescribed by law”). Germany and Finland are known only countries around the world to legalize the protection of foreign nationals. A government official said, “We are also considering the possibility of filing a lawsuit, stating that the government has not done its best to protect foreign nationals based on the Consular Assistance Act.”
However, Section 10.3 of the Consular Assistance Act stipulates that “consular assistance shall be provided only if the consular assistance cannot be resolved by any other means, such as the incoming event of a foreign national being assisted by himself or his or her ointment, or receiving the support of the government of the country in which he or she is in office.” It stated that “self-relief” is a priority. In addition, it is said that the cost of consular assistance is borne by individuals in principle, and that the government has established grounds for requesting the right to seek the right to do so, opening the way for the systematic protection of foreign nationals.
Based on Corona 19, the analysis is gaining momentum that the world will be divided into “B.C.” and “After Coronavirus”. The government’s role in protecting foreign nationals will also be difficult to avoid. In the face of a global pandemic crisis, the debate between the role of the country and its individual responsibilities is likely to take a new turn.
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