"Just want to provide some background information for anybody who wants to learn more about the Itaewon club coronavirus outbreak as well as the controversy regarding the ‘97 liners. All information on the coronavirus response is taken from either The Korea Herald, South Korea’s largest English language newspaper (published in Seoul, SK) or KCDC (Korean Center for Disease Control and Prevention) press releases. I used Time magazine’s interview with Park Neung-Hoo, South Korea’s health and welfare minster, as a reference for some general information. For information on the controversy itself, I referenced the initial Dispatch article and Soompi."
General Info on SK’s response to coronavirus:
SK has been praised for their quick, aggressive, and innovative response to the pandemic. Their approach to the coronavirus has been extremely successful as new cases remained in the single digits as of mid-April. South Korea never implemented a full lockdown but used mass testing, contact tracing, isolation, and social distancing campaigns as a way to flatten the curve. Source (Time Magazine: Interview with SK health and welfare minister)
April 21 - In response to the slowdown in the virus’ spread, social distancing campaign is loosened, and recreational outdoor facilities are set to open soon. The KCDC still warns citizens to be careful and social distance as a second wave is inevitable. Source (The Korea Herald)
April 24 - South Korea unveils a draft for guidelines for “everyday quarantine life.” Health authorities advise people to keep a distance of 2 meters and follow basic hygiene routines. Store openers and small business owners are recommended to limit mass-gathering events. These guidelines have no legal power as they are recommendations; citizens are urged to social distance but cannot be penalized if they don’t. Source (The Korea Herald)
April 24 - “The country, however, said overall social distancing is still in force until May 5, and it is considering moving toward so-called everyday life quarantine after the date if the number of cases continues to plateau [...] While health authorities remain wary of another wave of COVID-19 infections, the country is slowly moving to lift some of its social distancing regulations this week, giving the go-ahead for some facilities, including gyms.” Source (The Korea Herald)
(OP note: In the days leading up to April 25th, numbers of new covid cases in SK dropped to single digits and only 10 new cases on the day itself.)
April 25 (evening) - ‘97 liners (BTS Jungkook, Astro Cha Eun Woo, NCT Jaehyun, and Seventeen Mingyu) go to Itaewon restaurant and bar. Source (first reported by Dispatch) Source (confirmed by companies; Soompi) (OP note: Dispatch described it as a kind of dance bar rather than a lounge bar)
April 26 - NCT Jaehyun on “Inkigayo” as MC Source (Dispatch)
SK warns citizens to maintain social distancing even over the holidays (Apr. 30 - Buddha’s Birthday, May 1 - Labour Day, May 5 - Children’s Day)
May 1 (evening) - 29 year old (unknowingly) infected man goes to nightclubs, bars, restaurant, supermarket, clinic, shop, and pharmacy in Itaewon. Source (The Korean Herald)
May 3 - NCT Jaehyun on “Inkigayo” as MC Source (Dispatch)
May 6 - 29 year old man is confirmed to have visited clubs in Itaewon. He visited at least three nightclubs (King Club, Trunk Club, Club Queen), a restaurant, supermarket, clinic, shop, and pharmacy. Source (The Korean Herald)
May 7 - Astro Cha Eunwoo participates in comeback activities on “Cultwo Show” and “Hidden Track” Source (Dispatch)
May 8 - Astro Cha Eun Woo participates in comeback activities on “Show! Music Core” Source (Dispatch)
BTS Jungkook and Seventeen Mingyu did not have any official schedules
From May 8 to about May 16, SK was very concerned about Itaewon cluster of outbreak as cases continued to rise. On May 17, club-linked cases reported to flatten (see May 17 below)
May 8 - Seoul government suspends business at clubs and bars after possibility of a large outbreak in Itaewon. Mayor Park Won-soon said, “Carelessness can lead to an explosion in infections - we clearly realized this through the group infections seen in the Itaewon club case.” Yongsan Ward Office estimates that 7,200 people visited the bars and clubs from April 30-May 5. Officials have urged those people to receive screening in tests and refrain from going outside. Source (Korea Herald)
May 10 - NCT Jaehyun hosts “Inkigayo” as MC Source (Dispatch)
May 10 - “KCDC noted that anyone who visited clubs in Itaewon District (in Yongsan-gu, Seoul) from the end of April to 6 May are likely to have been exposed to the virus. KCDC asked these people to: (1) Stay home. (2) Contact a local public health center or dial 1339 (KCDC call center) and follow the instructions of the public health center.” Source (KCDC Press Release 2020.05.10)
Before May 11, the KCDC only asked people to get tested if they visited Itaewon clubs from April 29 (evening)-May 6 (morning). Visitors outside of that time period were asked to get tested only if they experienced symptoms
May 11 - “Noting that anyone who visited any of the nightlife entertainment venues including any clubs or bars from 24 April to 6 May is likely to have been exposed to the virus, KCDC asked everyone who visited these locations during the above period to:
- (1) Stay home.
- (2) Contact a local public health center or dial 1339 (KCDC call center).
- (3) Visit a screening clinic to get tested, regardless of symptoms.”
*This message reappears in all following press releases (most recent is 2020.05.18 press release) Source (KCDC Press Release 2020.05.11)
May 15 - “Even if test result is negative, it is still possible for the person to have been infected but in the 14-day incubation period before the virus activates. Therefore, those who have been instructed to self-quarantine should strictly follow the self-quarantine protocol. Persons who are not subject to self-quarantine should still minimize contact with other people. They should carefully practice personal hygiene measures including mask wearing and hand washing, and get retested immediately if symptoms appear later.”
*This message appears in following press releases (most recent is 2020.05.18) Source (KCDC Press Release 2020.05.15)
May 17 - President Moon Jae-In says that further infection caused by Itaewon cases seem to be controlled due to testing and contact-tracing. Source (The Korean Herald)
May 18 - Dispatch releases report Dispatch Article
May 18 - Big Hit Entertainment (BTS Jungkook), Pledis Entertainment (Seventeen Mingyu), Fantagio (Astro Cha Eun Woo), and SM Entertainment (NCT Jaehyun) all confirm the idols’ Itaewon outing on April 25 and apologize. They also confirm that all of the idols tested negative. Source + Link to Company Statements (Soompi)
Update: As of the May 18 press release, Itaewon bar/club/restaurant visitors from April 24 to May 6 are still being asked to get tested and stay home. The number of new cases related by the cluster has decreased to two, although reports of a club related case in Bucheon City have arisen.
TLDR: When the ‘97 liners went to Itaewon restaurant and bar on April 25, SK was starting to loosen up on social distancing although officials still highly encouraged it. On May 1, a man with coronavirus went to several clubs/bars in Itaewon, creating a cluster. Over the following weeks, concern mounted as new cases rose and all bars/clubs were closed. On May 11, the KCDC directed people who had gone to the clubs/bars from April 24 to May 10 to stay at home, contact a public health center, and get tested. By May 17, the Itaewon related cases were said to be contained by SK President. On May 18, Dispatch released an article about the four idols. The representative companies of the idols quickly responded, confirming the event, apologizing, and reporting that all tests came back negative.
"Also, this post is not made in defense or accusation of the idols’ actions. This long post is a result of my boredom, and I tried to make it as unbiased as possible. I did not cherry-pick my information and made sure to find legitimate sources. Please tell me if you find any misinformation/information to add. Thank you
Insightful threads on r/Korea: Announcement of first Itaewon club-related COVID-19 case + responses, Suspicion of expats/foreigners, LGTBQ+ Aspect of Outbreak Response, “Itaewon turns into a Ghost Town”; I found this one particularly interesting because users said that people responded to club closures in Itaewon was closed by going to Gangnam instead"
Jaehyun and Eunwoo handwrite apologies
Following SM Entertainment’s apology that day, Jaehyun has uploaded the following handwritten apology on his Instagram:
Hello, this is Jaehyun.
I’m sorry for causing many people concern through my actions during what is a difficult time for everyone. I am deeply reflecting over how I was careless and went to a restaurant and bar in Itaewon, despite it being a period of social distancing.
I sincerely apologize to the many people I have disappointed with my actions and to the fans who believed in me and supported me. Also, I sincerely apologize to those who were harmed by my actions, including my members, company, and everyone around me that I work with.
I will think carefully and be cautious about every action I take in the future. Once again, I sincerely apologize for causing concern to many people and my fans during a period when everyone is having a hard time due to COVID-19.
On the same day, Cha Eun Woo uploaded the following handwritten apology on ASTRO’s official Twitter account:
안녕하세요, 차은우입니다. pic.twitter.com/uoDqhIGYnI— ASTRO 아스트로 (@offclASTRO) May 19, 2020
Hello, this is Cha Eun Woo.
First of all, I am sorry for causing concern to many people due to my careless behavior.
Many medical staff and citizens are still working hard to overcome COVID-19, and I also participated in the “Thank You” challenge, so I deeply regret that I had a gathering with my acquaintances at a restaurant and bars in Itaewon without practicing social distancing.
I am truly sorry about disappointing my fans who believed in me and supported me. I also apologize to the members, the agency employees, and everyone around me.
Knowing the value of the love that many people have sent me, I will be a person who thinks and acts more carefully.
Once again, I apologize for causing concern and worry to many people.
source: ahnme (reddit), Time, The Korea Herald 1 2 3 4 5 6 7, koreadispatch, soompi 1 2 3, CDC Korea 1 2 3 4, offclASTRO, _jeongjaehyun
Even though bars were already open in Seoul, '97 line was idiotic for going out and they deserve people expressing their anger or disappointment. But I've also seen some over-the-top hate and some over-the-top "oppa didn't do it" fan reaction that is based on misinformation or just unclear information, so this timeline is a really good overview with all the facts!