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Asia Minute

Asia Minute: Seoul’s New Mayor Plans Coronavirus Policy Changes

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Song Kyung-Seok/Pool Photo via AP
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Oh Se-hoon, candidate of the main opposition People Power Party, holds flowers while watching televisions broadcasting the counting for the Seoul mayoral by-election at party headquarters in Seoul, South Korea, Thursday, April 8, 2021.

South Korea’s biggest city has a new mayor, and he’s looking to change the way the national capital is dealing with the coronavirus.

Seoul Mayor Oh Se-hoon wants to change the rules when it comes to public health—a lot of the rules.

Oh has been in office for just a few days, but during his campaign he criticized the government’s approach to fighting the coronavirus. On Monday, he said that business owners and merchants have been “sacrificed” because of restrictions he feels are overly stringent.

He wants to set up local rules for Seoul—consulting with the central government, but with the local government making the final decisions for South Korea’s largest city.

“It’s time to try different measures to help business owners while keeping the basic prevention measures,” he said.

Instead of blanket rules such as all businesses closing at 10 p.m., Oh wants to set different times for different enterprises.

He has a specific idea for the singing bars known as “karaoke” in Japan and the United States—and “noraebang” in Korea.

The new mayor says over-the-counter virus test kits could be available at the door, giving the establishments and other bars a better chance to serve healthy customers and stay in business.

But the federal government hasn’t yet approved those tests and health officials are cautious about some of Oh’s other ideas.

The mayor says he wants to work with the central government, adding that he’ll be coming out with more policy specifics later this week.

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