Two Hong Kong students studying at the Sungkyunkwan University in Seoul have alleged that they were reprimanded and told to leave a classroom for wearing facial masks even as MERS cases continued to climb in South Korea.
The students lodged a complaint with the university authorities and also took their case to the media, Ming Pao Daily reported.
According to the two, who were from the City University of Hong Kong and went to study in South Korea under a student exchange program, a professor told them “not to bring sensitive mood and feelings to the classroom and the country”, before asking them to leave.
The action came even as South Korea was battling an outbreak of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS), which has killed seven people and infected 95 others as of Tuesday.
The City University of Hong Kong, meanwhile, said it has talked to several South Korean universities where there are Hong Kong exchange students. All the Korean universities have now agreed that students will be allowed to wear masks during classes, it said.
As for the two students who had lodged a complaint, they want to return to Hong Kong earlier than planned, City University said, adding that is making the necessary arrangements.
It is estimated that there are 131 exchange students from Hong Kong universities currently in South Korea.
Following the MERS outbreak, some of them have expressed a wish to move forward their return journey back home, the report said.
Steve Chung Lok-wai, an assistant lecturer at the Chinese University of Hong Kong who is currently in South Korea doing research on Korean society and culture, said what happened to the two students at the Sungkyunkwan University should be considered as an isolated incident.
While South Koreans generally are not as used to wearing masks as Hongkongers, who had experienced the SARS outbreak in the last decade, the people are gradually realizing the importance of wearing protective gear, Chung said.
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