South Korea: Parliament Shuts Down After Journalist Tests Positive for Coronavirus

A police officer holding an umbrella stands guard in front of the National Assembly in Seoul on August 27, 2020. - South Korea's parliament was shut down on August 27 and a group of lawmakers were in self-quarantine as the country recorded more than 400 new coronavirus infections. (Photo by …
JUNG YEON-JE/AFP via Getty Images

South Korea’s National Assembly decided Thursday to temporarily close after a journalist covering the ruling Democratic Party tested positive for coronavirus.

“A photojournalist who covers the ruling party was present for the supreme council meeting” held at South Korea’s parliament building in the capital of Seoul on Wednesday, South Korea’s Yonhap News Agency reported. The meeting “was attended by chairman Lee Hae-chan and floor leader Rep. Kim Tae-nyeon as well as other senior officials [of the ruling party].”

More than 50 people, “including 14 senior members of the ruling Democratic Party, came in contact with the reporter,” according to the news agency.

After the meeting, the reporter learned that a relative with whom he had met last Saturday tested positive for coronavirus. He then had himself tested for coronavirus later Wednesday, with his test yielding positive results.

Floor leader Rep. Kim Tae-nyeon and other ruling party officials who came into contact with the photojournalist on Wednesday have already entered self-isolation as a precautionary measure and will undergo testing for coronavirus.

The National Assembly’s temporary closure “will impact parliamentary proceedings of other political parties. The main opposition United Future Party [a conservative party], and the minor Justice Party and People’s Party all opted to cancel meetings set for Thursday,” according to Yonhap.

South Korean Health authorities recorded 441 new coronavirus cases on Thursday, most detected in the greater Seoul area. Thursday’s number of new cases is “the latest in a series of near-six-month highs” for South Korea after it passed several weeks with its number of daily new cases “generally in the 30s and 40s,” Agence France-Presse (AFP) reported.

South Korea is currently battling to contain its worst coronavirus outbreak in the past five months, which authorities blame on an August 15 anti-government rally in Seoul organized by the Sarang Jeil Church and its conservative pastor, Jun Kwang-hoon. Thousands of people attended the rally despite an ongoing government ban on large gatherings in the capital during the coronavirus pandemic.

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