South Korean gov't summons Israeli diplomat following Israel travel ban

The South Korean government filed a formal complaint on Sunday morning, saying they “demanded that such an incident not occur again.”

Korean Air KE957 at Ben-Gurion Airport, February 22, 2020 (photo credit: ISRAEL AIRPORTS AUTHORITY)
Korean Air KE957 at Ben-Gurion Airport, February 22, 2020
The foreign minister in Seoul summoned Israel's charge d'affaires on Sunday to protest Israel’s treatment of South Korean nationals in light of the coronavirus outbreak.
The summons came as Israel announced a ban on the entry of South Koreans and Japanese due to the spread of the virus. The Health Ministry website briefly said that Israel would be totally closing its borders to foreign nationals, but then deleted the message late Saturday night.
The South Korean government filed a formal complaint to Israel on Sunday morning, saying they “demanded [that] such an incident not occur again.”
Foreign Minister Israel Katz said his ministry “is taking the necessary steps to ensure the public’s health while keeping up the important relations with Asian countries. We will continue to act in coordination with the relevant authorities in Israel.”
Katz spoke following a Foreign Ministry situation assessment meeting on Sunday, in which members of Israel’s delegations in China, Japan and South Korea lamented that Israel’s response has harmed relations with those countries.
Foreign Ministry director-general Yuval Rotem responded that the health of the Israeli public is the government’s priority, though Israel will try to minimize harm to diplomatic relations and continue an open dialogue with diplomats.
Rotem plans to meet with the South Korean ambassador to Israel on Sunday afternoon.
On Saturday night, Israel did not allow 130 South Koreans to disembark from flight KE957 from Seoul that had landed at Ben-Gurion Airport. Twelve Israelis were allowed off the plane and transported home in Magen David Adom ambulances. The plane was then sent back to Seoul.
The Airports Authority announced Sunday that it made arrangements for the South Korean passengers who were unable to depart on Saturday night’s flight back to their country. According to the authority, passengers departed on commercial flights with foreign airlines that had connections through third countries.
The Foreign Ministry decided on Sunday that it would send more staff to a special command room at Ben-Gurion Airport to help tourists who are banned from entering Israel.
The refusal to admit the passengers followed a sharp increase in coronavirus cases in South Korea on Saturday, when local health authorities said the number of infected people had doubled to 433, as well as confirmation that nine South Korean nationals tested positive for the virus after returning from Israel earlier this month.
An additional 1,000 tourists from South Korea currently traveling in Israel have been instructed to avoid public places, and instead remain in isolation in their hotels.
Israel has long sought to have South Korea remove its permanent travel warning its citizens against visiting Israel due to the security situation, in order to boost economic ties between the two countries.