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April 9 2020
NHRCK Chairperson’s Statement: “COVID-19 Is a Test of Our Society’s Ability to Protect Human Rights.”
-NHRCK Chairperson calls on those under self-quarantine orders to cooperate in a sense of solidarity and authorities to exercise caution in the launch of tracker wristbands-
The National Human Rights Commission of Korea (Chairperson Young-ae Choi) expresses concern regarding discussions over the adoption of a wristband that tracks the location of suspected COVID-19 patients who are under self-quarantine in real time.
The Commission fully understands the purpose of the wristband policy, as a growing number of people breaking quarantine hinder the efforts by the government, healthcare workers and citizens to contain the spread of coronavirus. We would like to make it clear that the breach of quarantine orders, which endangers the safety of our society, is never acceptable.
Nevertheless, the use of a wristband, which is attached to a part of a person’s body and tracks their location in real time, should be enforced to the extent allowed by applicable law after considering the balance between restriction of basic rights of individuals and public interests and intrusiveness of such measures.
It should also be noted that the wristband policy may have unintended consequences as those with symptoms may refuse to get tested for coronavirus to avoid monitoring of their real-time location data.
The Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said that it will consider introducing wristbands with the consent of self-isolating people. However, in this case, giving consent should not be coercion or formality. Individuals should have the freedom to give consent to the processing of their personal data.
Meanwhile, the COVID-19 guidance released by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights acknowledges the necessity of emergency measures enforced by governments, but stresses the importance of applying such measures in a less intrusive and non-discriminatory manner and limiting the duration and scope of monitoring of individuals.
The COVID-19 pandemic is an unprecedented crisis for humanity, and it is a test of our society’s ability to respect human rights and the rule of law. We should bear in mind that it would be extremely difficult and time-consuming to restore the values of human rights, which have taken many years of reflection and trials and errors to establish, if we let these values weaken at times of crisis.
Those under quarantine should remember that their reckless behavior can accelerate the spread of the virus and follow the quarantine order in a sense of solidarity.
The Commission thanks once again the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, related government agencies and healthcare workers for their tireless efforts to fight the pandemic and hopes that our joint efforts will help us get through the crisis.