Residents of South Korea’s Jincheon Count a banner welcoming the arrival of hundreds of Afghan civilians who were evacuated to Korea. Photo courtesy of Jincheon County

Orders flock to Jincheon online shopping mall

Jincheon, a small town about 90 kilometers south of Seoul, has won the hearts and minds of South Korean people as it housed hundreds of Afghan civilians who were evacuated from the chaotic state.

Jincheon County recently said that orders continue to inundate its official online shopping mall, which sells such agricultural products as rice, vegetables, and fruits, over the past two weeks.

On Aug. 27, the group of 377 Afghans landed at a Korean airport to move to their temporary shelter in Jincheon to stay there for six weeks for quarantine related to the virus pandemic and education.

Unlike concerns that some 80,000 Jincheon residents would protest, they installed several banners to welcome the Afghans, who left their homeland occupied by the Taliban. Some of them read, “We share your pain.”

Hoping to show their supports for the Afghans and Jincheon, Koreans flocked to the shopping mall to order in bulk, which once caused the shutdown of the website.

“The amounts of orders jumped three or four times on Aug. 25-26. As the Afghans arrived here, the figures rocketed almost 20 times compared to last year,” Jincheon official Shin Hyun-jeong said.

“As we could not deal with the abrupt increase, we closed the online shopping mall for days. Even after we reopened it on Sept. 1, unusually many customers keep visiting our website.”

A businessman asked Shin to provide 200 bags to donate to other not-for-profit organizations.

“We really appreciate the unexpected support of Korean people,” she commented.

Watchers point out that the Afghan evacuees are different from ordinary refugees as they are those who helped South Koreans in Afghanistan. They will obtain visas, which permit work and residency of up to five years, and the chance to apply for permanent residency visas.

“Although many Koreans are typically reluctant to accept refugees, the Afghans are not the same because they helped Koreans in the Middle East,” Prof. Shin Yul at Myongji University said.

“That’s why most Koreans welcomed the evacuees, and Jincheon wins the applause of people.”

More than two-thirds of Koreans agreed with the Seoul administration’s decision to accept the Afghan evacuees.

Late last month, local pollster Realmeter surveyed 500 people aged 18 and over. And 68.7 percent of the respondents said that they agreed with the decision, while just 28.7 percent were against it.

After the Taliban took over Kabul, many Afghans have tried to leave the country, but just a few governments accepted them, including the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, Germany, Australia, and South Korea.

Kevin Chung studied literature in Seoul. He is interested in various areas. He can be reached at jumphigher55@aol.com or 82-2-6956-6698.