[Reporter’s Notebook] USFK must follow quarantine rules

On Saturday night, Haeundae Beach, Busan’s main tourist spot, was in turmoil as visitors started fireworks and celebrated without wearing a mask amid the Covid-19 pandemic.

The riot ended because of a rave party held by United States Forces Korea (USFK) and other foreigners celebrating U.S. Memorial Day.

According to the Busan Metropolitan Police Agency and witnesses, foreigners danced, drank, and started fireworks in and around the beach from Saturday afternoon until early Sunday. Many of them did not wear face masks and violated the rules of social isolation.

Police said they have received at least 38 complaints from residents, expressing concerns about dangerous quarantine practices. Police sent several officers to the area but could not stop people from partying. Those parties are a clear violation of the Korean government’s social exclusion guidelines and USFK’s quarantine rules.

Korea still seeks to curb the continued spread of Covid-19 nationwide and is implementing strict antivirus schemes.

The offense will also face a blow to quarantine authorities in Busan, which are struggling with quarantine due to the explosion in the number of Covid-19 cases this year.

The unrest from USFK soldiers also stemmed from the increase in the nation’s second-largest town from 2 to 1.5 last Monday because they believed they were fueling the spread of the virus in the city.

As part of the restraints, municipal officials plan to fix quarantine rules for some facilities, which have extended closing hours for restaurants and bars from 10:00 pm to 11:00 pm

USFK soldiers and other foreigners seem to have ignored the city’s quarantine efforts by throwing out a riotous party.

This is not the first time U.S. troops have violated Korean quarantine regulations.

A similar situation happened at Haeundae Beach last summer. At the time, dozens of undocumented U.S. soldiers also began firing and drinking alcohol while completely ignoring requests by officers to follow quarantine rules.

USFK said it will impose fines of up to 3 million dollars ($ 2,688) on soldiers who violate quarantine regulations, such as not wearing a beach mask and speaking out loud.

Because of their frequent violations, the Koreans expressed outrage at the behavior of USFK soldiers for disregarding the local quarantine situation when locals did what they could to cooperate with the quarantine situation while accepting the inconvenience of their daily lives.

“This is outright unacceptable,” Kim Kwang-mo, 34, a Busan resident, told the Korea Biomedical Review on Monday. “If the Haeundae parties lead to a major outbreak as well, the Korean people will not forgive the violations committed by the USFK soldiers because of the much suffering we have to prevent the spread of the virus.”

USFK has promised to cooperate with the local police investigation. “The U.S. military knows what happened at Haeundae Beach,” a USFK spokesman said. “We are cooperating with the South Korean police who are leading the investigation.”

The official stressed that USFK is committed to being a good neighbor and maintaining a strong ROK-US alliance.

In order to put into practice the alliance’s slogan, “We are working together,” USFK must take detailed steps to stop violations from happening instead of conducting a thorough investigation, according to SNS comments made by Koreans. USFK must continue to probe and hold quarantine violators accountable, they said.

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