QR code electronic registration adopted in S. Korea to trace dance club visitors

By Park Sae-jin Posted : May 25, 2020, 11:11 Updated : May 26, 2020, 08:05

[Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention]

SEOUL -- For a quick epidemiological investigation by South Korean health officials into the origin of COVID-19 infection, visitors to dance clubs and singing rooms that have a high risk of infection will have to register their identity using a QR code-based smartphone verification system.

From June 1, the electronic visitor registration system will be compulsory for high-risk facilities such as dance clubs, Hunting Pocha, and singing rooms, while it is recommended for restaurants, bars and other vulnerable facilities.

A QR code is a barcode-like image tag that automatically directs users to a designated service or a website when it is scanned by a smartphone camera. China has rolled out a health code management system using QR codes. Visitors are required to scan QR codes before they enter buildings.

South Korean health officials have experienced considerable difficulties in their epidemiological investigation in Itaewon, the epicenter of a COVID-19 outbreak near central Seoul in early May, because some people falsely wrote down personal information and contact numbers on the list of visitors to hide their identity.

"In order to secure an accurate list of visitors and roll out a rapid quarantine management network, we decided to adopt an electronic visitor registration system using QR codes," Health and Welfare Minister Park Neung-hoo said.

Visitors to high-risk facilities can register their information onto the government's visitor registration system by scanning a QR code using a smartphone app. The minimum amount of information required for quarantine purposes including dates, time and names will be collected and encrypted.

Encrypted information will be sent to the Social Security Intelligence Service, a government body that handles and manages social and health-related information so that it can be accessed in case of an emergency. The government stressed the system will only be operated during the COVID-19 crisis and collected information will be terminated after four weeks.

If visitors do not want to register personal information using the smartphone verification system, they can write it down after their identification cards were checked by facility operators.

Along with dance clubs, singing rooms and Hunting Pochas hold a high risk of COVID-19 contamination. It's because such facilities involve physical activities and contact inside confined spaces with little or no ventilation. Hunting Pocha is a type of bar that is popular among young consumers in their early 20s to find the partners of opposite sex in a hunting-like manner.

Since the first wave of COVID-19 hit South Korea in February, the government has made compulsory for dance clubs and other entertainment facilities to receive the names and phone numbers of customers in order to prevent cross-contaminations with unknown sources. Visitors wrote down their personal information without any verification process.

Health officials found that the registration of personal information based on good faith has gone wrong when a COVID-19 outbreak began in the heart of LGBTQ community in Itaewon because many used fake names and phone numbers. The outbreak in Itaewon has left 225 people infected as of May 24.

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