|A truck sprays disinfectant amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak in Ho Chi Minh city, Vietnam, Tuesday. Reuters-Yonhap|
By Kim Hyun-bin
Korean companies and state-run institutions operating in Vietnam are facing a dilemma due to the Southeast Asian country's request to contribute to the launch of a "vaccine fund."
The government of Vietnam recently announced a plan to establish a $1.1 billion fund to acquire 150 million COVID-19 vaccine doses.
According to industry sources and media reports, Vietnam, which has been struggling to contain the spread of the virus through quarantine efforts, has been asking foreign firms to take part in the efforts to curtail the country's virus situation.
The request poses a burden for many Korean firms as they are suffering declining sales due to the impact of the prolonged pandemic. However, it is not easy for them to reject the request due to fears of repercussions from the local government.
"The Vietnamese government has been calling on Korean companies to take part in its vaccine drive. They even asked us to vaccinate all of the locals working in our factory," a major conglomerate official said, Friday.
In addition, text messages were sent to all cell phone subscribers in the Southeast Asian country to encourage people take part in the vaccine efforts along with an account number to transfer funds.
Many Korean-run factories are located in Vietnam as the local government there vowed to provide support, including tax breaks. However, the recent request has posed a dilemma for Korean firms, which they say feel obliged to foot the bill due to fears of future repercussions from the government.
"Korean companies were also hit hard by the pandemic and even during this difficult time, they are asking us to take part in the vaccine fund. We can't be too pleased about that," another Korean company official said.
Not only conglomerates, but even Korean public institutions doing business in the country are receiving calls to join the vaccine drive telling them to get sponsors from Korean conglomerates to pay for the efforts.
According to the Vietnamese health ministry, the country reported more than 4,000 local virus cases since May out of a total 8,063 patients with 49 deaths as of Thursday.