University liability agreement found to violate students' human rights

University liability agreement found to violate students' human rights

A notice announcing access restrictions stands in front of Sogang University’s campus in Seoul on March 28 following reports of COVID-19 infections at a campus dormitory. Yonhap

By Jun Ji-hye

The National Human Rights Commission of Korea (NHRCK) has concluded that Sogang University violated the human rights of its students by trying to get them to accept civil and criminal liability if they became infected with COVID-19.

Sources familiar with the issue said Sunday that the NHRCK will soon advise the university to draw up appropriate measures to prevent further violations.

Controversy arose after the university tried to get students living in the Gonzaga Hall dormitory building to sign an agreement that read, “When I go out, I will comply with quarantine rules thoroughly and refrain from visiting places that have risk of COVID-19 infections. If I am infected with the coronavirus after visiting those places, I will take all civil and criminal liability in addition to responsibility for any economic losses.”

The dormitory demanded students enter the agreement in March following COVID-19 infections among students living there.

Places cited by the dormitory as posing risk of COVID-19 infections included bars, singing rooms, dance studios and indoor standing concert halls, among others.

The agreement drew huge criticism from students claiming that the university was attempting to shift responsibility for the outbreak onto them.

“The university should have taken responsibility for its failure to carry out appropriate antivirus measures in the dormitory and not shifted responsibility to the students,” one student wrote on the university’s online community.

Some students even accused the dormitory of coercing them into the agreement.

Amid mounting controversy, a graduate of the university filed a petition with the NHRCK against the university.

In response to the backlash, the university decided not to make students sign the agreement.

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