Just days after Hong Kong museums shuttered for the fourth time as a result of rising coronavirus cases, state museums in Seoul are being told to close their doors, as well, as South Korea aims to quell its own uptick in infections through new social-distancing measures.
On Tuesday, the National Museum of Korea, which focuses on art and history, and the National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art (MMCA) closed its branches in the capital through at least December 18, in accordance with the regulations. (The Korea JoongAng Daily has a list of additional affected sites.) The MMCA’s other locations, in the cities of Gwacheon (just outside Seoul) and Cheongju, remain open with advance reservations.
The Seoul Museum of Art, whose purview is contemporary art, also said it will close its various facilities through through December 18. The Leeum, Samsung Museum of Art has been out of commission since February as result of the pandemic; the Dong-a Ilbo newspaper reported in October that the Leeum will reopen in March, but a rep there told ARTnews that no schedule has been set.
On Monday, South Korea’s health minister, Park Neung-hoo, described metropolitan Seoul as a “Covid-19 war zone” in a government meeting, according to the Associated Press. The nation of about 52 million has been averaging more than 500 new confirmed cases a day for more than a week, with most of those coming in the Seoul area.
The Korean government has placed Seoul under its second-highest social-distancing level (2.5 out of 3), mandating that gyms and clubs close and that public gatherings be limited to 50 people. Restaurants have remained open throughout the spike with the provision that they must be clear of in-person diners by 9 p.m. The new rules officially go into effect Tuesday evening.
Some Korean museums had been forced to shutter in August as a result of a second wave in the country; the go-ahead to reopen was given in late September.
Most galleries in Seoul are still open for business at the moment, though many require advance reservations. Contact-tracing is strictly enforced, with visitors’ contact information logged by scanning a mobile-phone QR code or—for those without that technology—filling out a sheet in a paper logbook.