SEOUL, Jan. 10 (Yonhap) -- Long lines, entry bans and angry protests plagued department stores, shopping malls and large supermarkets Monday as the government's vaccine pass system was enforced at such retail establishments for the first time.
Visitors are now required to present proof of vaccination or negative COVID-19 test results to enter large retail establishments under a revised vaccine pass scheme aimed at reining in an increase of new transmissions and critical cases.
The addition of those stores to a host of facilities, including restaurants, cafes and gyms, has already sparked strong backlash, with opponents claiming the measure essentially equates to the infringement of unvaccinated people's right to basic needs.
"I received my third vaccine shot but don't have my certificate with me," a middle-aged male customer quarreled as he was trying to enter an agro-fishery market in Daejeon, 160 kilometers south of Seoul. A long line had formed at the entrance due to the vaccine pass and temperature checks.
A 70-something customer at a large supermarket in Uijeongbu, north of Seoul, also complained as he was blocked from entry due to not having a vaccine pass.
"Why aren't you letting me enter when I have received my shots as told by my health center," he complained.
At a supermarket outlet in Daegu, 300 kilometers southeast of Seoul, a number of senior customers unfamiliar with the vaccine pass QR code also experienced hassle over entry.
At an E-Mart outlet in Cheongju, 140 kilometers south of Seoul, a civic group against coronavirus vaccination held a protest while trying to enter. "Why are we being restricted from shopping quietly with our mask on when we're allowed to eat alone even without a mask," the group said.
With the new rule in place, many department stores have increased staff at entrances to check customers' vaccine status.
"Please have your vaccine passes ready," an employee at Lotte Department Store in Sogong-dong, central Seoul, told customers waiting in line to enter minutes before opening. A staff member was seen catching a customer who tried to enter without presenting the vaccine pass QR code.
Despite complaints, others also saw the vaccine pass adoption as a necessary measure.
"I was vaccinated at an early date, so the vaccine pass isn't a big hassle, a 44-year-old shopper, surnamed Lim, said. "Since we (vaccinated people) are already putting up with inconveniences, I think it's only right for unvaccinated people, too, to refrain come coming out to such public places."