Several parents’ associations in South Korea held protests on Thursday in the capital Seoul against a new COVID-19 vaccine mandate for children and teenagers.

From February, all children aged 12 to 18-years-old – born between the years 2003 and 2009 – have to provide proof of vaccination against COVID-19 when entering public spaces that are frequented by students. These spaces include cram schools, internet cafes and public study rooms.

Enraged parents protesting against the new vaccine mandate for children

At least 70 members of parents’ associations gathered in front of South Korea’s Disease Control and Prevention Agency building on Thursday, holding up signs that read “Vaccine Dictatorship”.

Teens and their parents say that requiring a vaccine pass in places like cram schools, which are privately-run schools that provide after-school tutoring to prepare students for exams and are considered essential facilities for nearly all middle and high school students in Korea, is unfair.

A mother-of-two who attended the protest said:

“Enforcing a vaccine pass system in cram schools is a violation of the children’s right to learn.”

Additionally, South Korea’s cram schools have voiced their concerns regarding the new vaccine requirement for students. Lee Yu-Won, head of the Korea Association of Cram Schools, said in a press release:

“It is impossible for students to go through multiple PCR tests to be able to go to cram schools or study rooms. Cram schools are different from other multi-use facilities as they can keep tight track of visitors.”

The South Korean government stated that they decided to expand the vaccine pass system to younger people after learning of the new omicron variant. Whilst the government initially allowed teens to get vaccinated as they choose, the new wave of infections and the omicron variant changed the situation according to them.

A report of the protest by news outlet JTBC:

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