|People line up to buy face masks in front of a drug store amid the rise in confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus COVID-19 in Daegu, Tuesday. Reuters|
By Jung Min-ho
Foreigners are up in arms for the Daegu city government's "racist" Facebook post.
The controversy emerged after the Daegu Metropolitan Government's official English-language Facebook page said Monday that organizers of the 2020 Daegu Lantern Festival will "restrict foreigners' admission due to prevention for COVID-19 spreading."
The comment comes as the government struggles to contain the virus, which has killed 33 people and infected more than 5,700 across Korea. Daegu is among the nation's worst-hit areas.
"If a city wants to focus on scapegoating a particular group at a time when the rest of the world is trying to stop linking this virus to particular nationalities or origins, then this place is a national embarrassment" Michael Hurt, an American photographer and lecturer in cultural theory at Korean National University of Arts, told The Korea Times Wednesday.
Another long-time American resident in Korea also criticized the post, saying "the timing was extremely bad and the wording was horrible."
The post was deleted after many people took issue with it online.
The Facebook page manager, who is contracted by the city, made an official apology on the page for "using inappropriate words."
"First, I want to apologize for hurting you guys so bad because of my immature sentence on the previous post. It definitely was my lack of English," the manager wrote.
A Daegu city government official said it was a translation error.
The original message (in Japanese) was intended to inform foreign package tourists that their schedule for the lantern festival, which had initially slated for April 18, would be delayed over virus concerns, the official said.
"The Daegu city government did not have such policy. It was a translation error," the official said. "After what happened, we have asked our PR agency to replace the page manager."
David Tizzard, an assistant professor at Seoul Women's University, said the incident was regrettable.
"However, I feel that we should always be careful about attributing to malevolence what can be justified by stupidity. We do so because, naturally, we want to feel better about ourselves," he said.
"Nevertheless, I don't think shaming or blaming is necessarily the correct way to move things forward. Perhaps if we can be a little more forgiving and generous in our responses, and constructive in our criticisms, we will see fewer of these situations occurring in the future. And, ultimately, I think that's what most of us truly want."