COVID-19 and Korea

Viral xenophobia through a legal lens


  • Ciarán Burke



South Korea, Shincheonji, human rights, rule of law, courts, COVID-19


Although South Korea’s response to COVID-19 has been praised as efficient, effective, and well-planned, the legislation devised to tackle the pandemic suffered from a lack of human rights safeguards and was rather opportunistically employed by the government to target an unpopular religious community. In such situations, it falls to the courts to provide protection to those who may have suffered as a result of state excesses. The trial of Chairman Lee Man-hee of the Shincheonji Church of Jesus places these issues in sharp relief. Chairman Lee’s prosecution is instructive regarding applications of the rule of law in situations of national emergency, freedom of religion, and the inadequacy of traditional legal remedies for certain human rights violations.

Author Biography

Ciarán Burke

Ciarán Burke is Senior Research Fellow (Professor), Jena Center for Reconciliation Studies, Friedrich Schiller University of Jena, Germany; Legal Officer, EFTA Surveillance Authority, Brussels. The views expressed herein are those of the author and do not reflect the position of the EFTA Surveillance Authority.