February 5 2020
"We Need to Respond to the Social Disaster with a Sense of Humanity and Solidarity, not with Hatred," Says NHRCK Chairperson
-NHRCK Chairperson's statement on the spread of COVID-19-
A steady increase in confirmed COVID-19 cases in Korea and across the globe is fueling concerns about the spread of disease.
The National Human Rights Commission of Korea (Chairperson Young-ae Choi) appreciates all of you who are working hard in your respective fields to stop the spread of the virus. The people of Korea deserve our respect for showing a mature response to the crisis through protection of vulnerable people and humanitarian assistance. The Commission hopes that we will be able to successfully overcome the crisis.
It is regrettable, however, that there has been an increase in racist posts that incite hatred towards Chinese or Korean-Chinese residents on social media and other online platforms with the rise of anxiety and fears of citizens about the spread of coronavirus. These posts ridicule Chinese eating habits, display prejudiced opinions about China's political culture and treat China as the source of disease for the reason that the first case was detected in Wuhan, China. Chinese residents are told to go back to their country and denied entry to a restaurant. On top of that, misinformation is spreading about Chinese patients coming to Korea for free medical care.
Hate originates from negative stereotypes and prejudice against specific groups that treat them as sick or inferior and incites discrimination against them. In particular, hate speech that blames certain groups for public fears and anxiety about coronavirus hinders an effective response to the current crisis, escalates social tensions, justifies discrimination against the targeted group and incites hatred towards them. As new coronavirus spreads across the world, some countries like Italy prohibit Korean and Asian students from attending classes and react to the pandemic with racial slurs at Asians. These examples show that we can also become a target of hate-based incidents in other parts of the world.
Media play a critical role at times of social disasters. On January 16, the media sector issued a joint declaration on countering hate speech with the NHRCK and stated that it recognizes the spread of hate speech during the outbreak of disasters or infectious disease and makes sure to extensively report on human rights dimensions of the crisis.
As a rise in confirmed patients fuels hate speech, there are growing calls to stop hateful remarks targeting Chinese and Korean-Chinese people. Efforts to prevent and counter hate speech show that our society stands ready to tackle the problem of hatred. We hope that we will be able to overcome the crisis with a sense of humanity and solidarity rather than discrimination against or exclusion of specific groups.
The NHRCK is committed to creating a society that is free of hate and discrimination and protects the dignity of every individual.