Samsung Electronics Forecasts Profits Jump Despite Virus

This file photo taken on October 11, 2016 shows the Samsung store in Paris. Samsung Electronics France was charged in April 2019 with “deceptive marketing practices”.
BERTRAND GUAY / AFP

 

 

Samsung Electronics forecast a 23-percent rise in second-quarter operating profit Tuesday, with strong demand for memory chips and displays overcoming the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on smartphone sales.

The world’s biggest smartphone and memory chip maker said in an earnings estimate that it expected operating profit to be 8.1 trillion won ($6.8 billion) for April-June, up from 6.6 trillion won in the same period last year.

The prediction was far ahead of analyst forecasts of a single-digit decline.

Lockdowns imposed around the world in the face of the coronavirus pandemic — especially in Europe and the United States — have boosted Samsung’s chip business with data centres moving to stockpile DRAM chips to meet surging demand for online activities.

“The earnings surprise seems to have stemmed from Samsung’s memory chip sector,” said Park Jin-suk of market observer Counterpoint, pointing to “increased demand for memory chips for PCs and a continuing rise in DRAM chip prices”.

Similarly, TV sales, which have been on a long-term decline, were “moving upward as people spend more time at home”, said James Kang, an analyst at market observer Euromonitor International Korea.

Samsung attributed the estimated operating profits rise to a one-off profit generated from its display division, without offering details.

The company predicted overall sales in the second quarter would be down by 7.3 percent from a year earlier.

The firm is the world’s largest smartphone maker, accounting for 20 percent of global market share in the first quarter — ahead of China’s Huawei with 17 percent and Apple on 14 percent — according to Counterpoint.

Global smartphone sales slumped more than 20 percent year-on-year in the first quarter, their worst performance ever, according to market tracker Gartner, as the pandemic hit consumer spending and sparked widespread economic uncertainty.

– Border boost –
Looking forward, analysts expect the firm’s smartphone and television businesses to improve, with mobile sales growing as restrictions are lifted in some parts of the world.

Smartphone “sales in the US and Europe showed signs of improvement from late in the second quarter”, said Park.

“Going into the third quarter, we expect the sales figure to rise,” he added, predicting smartphone sales in the “low 70 millions” for July-September.

A recent military brawl between India and China also could play in Samsung’s favour, Kang said, if Indian consumers choose Samsung devices over Chinese brands amid heightened nationalistic sentiment against Beijing.

Despite the positive forecast, Samsung Electronics shares closed down 2.9 percent on Tuesday, leaving them nearly 15 percent off January’s record high.

LG Electronics, South Korea’s second-largest appliance firm after Samsung, forecast second-quarter operating profits would plunge 24.4 percent year on year to 493.1 billion won.

Its shares closed down 3.8 percent.

Samsung Electronics is crucial to South Korea’s economic health.

It is the flagship subsidiary of the giant Samsung group — by far the largest of the family-controlled conglomerates known as chaebols that dominate business in the world’s 12th-largest economy.

Its overall turnover is equivalent to a fifth of the national gross domestic product.

Vice-chairman and de facto leader Lee Jae-Yong is currently being retried over a sprawling corruption scandal that could see him return to prison.

He is not being held in custody during the proceedings, but a guilty verdict could deprive the firm of its top decision-maker.

Samsung withholds net profit and sector-by-sector business performance data until it releases its final earnings report, expected later this month.

-AFP

Countries Agree Regulations For Automated Driving

A picture taken on June 16, 2020 shows a self-driving bus being tested out on tourist route in Tallin, Estonia. – The project is a joint initiative being run by the Tallinn city authorities, the Tallinn University of Technology (Taltech) and French company Navya. The service is being used mainly by tourists and curious locals but the plan is such buses could eventually be used as regular public transport. Raigo Pajula / AFP.

 

More than 50 countries, including Japan, South Korea and the EU member states, have agreed common regulations for vehicles that can take over some driving functions, including having a mandatory black box, the UN announced Thursday.

The binding rules on Automated Lane Keeping Systems (ALKS) will come into force in January 2021.

The measures were adopted by the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) World Forum for Harmonization of Vehicle Regulations, which brings together 53 countries, not just in Europe but also in Africa and Asia.

“This is the first binding international regulation on so-called ‘Level 3’ vehicle automation,” UNECE said in a statement.

“The new regulation therefore marks an important step towards the wider deployment of automated vehicles to help realise a vision of safer, more sustainable mobility for all.”

At Level 3 — Level 5 is fully automated — the driver is not driving when the automated systems are engaged, but can step in at any time and must take over at the system’s request.

READ ALSO: UN Urges ‘Moratorium’ On Facial Recognition Tech Use In Protests

Tesla’s Autopilot system is Level 2, where drivers are expected to keep their attention on traffic. Meanwhile in Level 3 they can do other things such as watch a movie or send a text message.

Level 4 is where a driver need not be ready to quickly intervene, at least in limited areas, while at Level 5 vehicles are fully autonomous.

Japan, which co-led drafting the regulation with Germany, will apply the regulations as soon as they come into force.

The European Commission, which also contributed to the project alongside, France, Canada and the Netherlands in particular, said the regulations would apply in the EU at an unspecified later date, said UNECE.

The United States is not part of the forum but its car manufacturers would have to follow the new regulations in order to sell Level 3 vehicles in Japan, for example.

– 60 kph limit –

The regulations establish strict requirements for ALKS, which can control the vehicle when the driver is behind the wheel with the seatbelt on.

The rules ensure the ALKS can only be activated on roads equipped with a physical separation dividing traffic moving in opposite directions, where pedestrians and cyclists are prohibited.

They also establish a speed limit of 60 kilometres (37 miles) per hour.

The regulations also require vehicles to be equipped with a Data Storage System for Automated Driving — the so-called “black box” — which will record when ALKS are activated.

Screens for any activities other than driving are automatically switched off as soon as the driver resumes control.

Car manufacturers must also introduce Driver Availability Recognition Systems, which monitor the driver’s capability to take back control of the vehicle, including through spotting eye blinking and closure.

ALKS will also need to comply with cyber-security and software update requirements set out in two other new UN regulations also adopted this week.

AFP

North And South Mark 70th Anniversary Of Korean War

Actors dressed as a Korean War-era soldiers hold doves to be released during ceremony marking the 70th anniversary of the start of the Korean War at the Baengmagoji War Memorial in Cheorwon, near the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) separating north and south Korea. – South Korea and the United States on June 25 reaffirmed their commitment to defending “the hard-fought peace” on the divided peninsula as the allies marked the 70th anniversary of the outbreak of the Korean War. (Photo by Ed JONES / AFP)

 

 

North and South Korea on Thursday separately marked the 70th anniversary of the start of the Korean War, a conflict that killed millions of people and has technically yet to end.

Communist North Korea invaded the US-backed South on June 25, 1950, as it sought to reunify by force the peninsula Moscow and Washington had divided at the end of the Second World War.

The fighting ended with an armistice that was never replaced by a peace treaty, leaving the peninsula and millions of families split by the Demilitarized Zone.

In the South, the remains of nearly 150 soldiers repatriated from Hawaii after being excavated in the North were to be formally received at a government ceremony on Thursday evening, themed “Salute to the Heroes”.

It was scheduled to include video messages from the leaders of the 22 foreign nations that made up the UN coalition defending the South, starting with President Donald Trump of the United States, which led the UN alliance.

Earlier, Seoul and Washington’s defence ministers reaffirmed their commitment to defending “the hard-fought peace”.

“On this day in 1950, the US-ROK military alliance was born of necessity and forged in blood,” said US Secretary of Defence Mark Esper and his South Korean counterpart Jeong Kyeong-doo.

Up to three million Koreans died in the conflict, the vast majority of them civilians.

Nearly 37,000 Americans were among the more than 40,000 UN soldiers killed, and Western estimates say China, which backed the North, saw 400,000 fatalities, while Chinese sources put it at about 180,000.

The North has a different history of the period, which it knows as the Victorious Fatherland Liberation War, and insists that it was assaulted first, before it counter-attacked.

In Pyongyang, citizens and soldiers attended a war heroes’ cemetery on the outskirts of Pyongyang to lay flowers before the graves and bow.

“Cede not an inch of ground!” read an inscription on a statue of a machine-gunner.

The official Rodong Sinmun newspaper carried more than 10 stories on the war, including an editorial asserting that a US invasion had turned “the entire country into ashes” but that it had forced the “aggressors” to sign a “surrender document”.

“A ceasefire is not peace,” it said. “The enemy is aiming for the moment that we forget about June 25 and lower our guard.”

The nuclear-armed North, which is subject to multiple international sanctions over its banned weapons programmes, says it needs its arsenal to deter a US invasion.

Negotiations between Pyongyang and Washington have been deadlocked for months, leaving inter-Korean relations in a deep freeze despite a rapid rapprochement in 2018 that brought three summits between North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and the South’s President Moon Jae-in.

– White doves –
At the site of one of the key battlefields in Cheorwon county near the Demilitarized Zone a handful of surviving South Korean war veterans marked the anniversary.

“It is our misfortune that the South and North had to live for nearly 70 years in confrontation because of the war,” a veteran said, before releasing white doves as a symbol of their hopes for a final peace settlement.

Kim on Wednesday suspended plans for military moves aimed at the South, after the North raised tensions last week by demolishing a liaison office on its side of the border that symbolised inter-Korean cooperation.

Seoul’s relationship with Washington has also been strained by the Trump administration’s demands that it pay more towards the cost of keeping 28,500 US troops on the peninsula to protect the South from its neighbour.

Recent events showed that inter-Korean relations “can turn into a house of cards at any time”, the South’s JoongAng Daily said in an editorial.

The South Korean government has “persistently turned a blind eye” to Pyongyang’s provocations, it said, adding: “We hope the government and defence ministry deeply reflect on the lesson of 70 years ago.”

-AFP

North Korea Blows Up Diplomatic Office Near Border With South

Smoke rise from North Korea's Kaesong Industrial Complex where an inter-korean liaison office was set up in 2018, as seen from South Korea's border city of Paju on June 16, 2020.  STR / YONHAP / AFP
Smoke rises from North Korea’s Kaesong Industrial Complex where an inter-korean liaison office was set up in 2018, as seen from South Korea’s border city of Paju on June 16, 2020. STR / YONHAP / AFP

 

North Korea blew up an inter-Korean liaison office on its side of the border on Tuesday, triggering broad international condemnation after days of virulent rhetoric from Pyongyang.

The demolition came after Kim Yo Jong — the powerful sister of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un — said at the weekend the “useless north-south joint liaison office” would soon be seen “completely collapsed”.

Footage of the explosion released by Seoul’s presidential Blue House showed a blast rolling across several buildings just across the border in Kaesong, with a nearby tower partially collapsing as clouds of smoke rose into the sky.

Analysts say Pyongyang may be seeking to manufacture a crisis to increase pressure on Seoul while nuclear negotiations with Washington are at a standstill.

After an emergency meeting, the National Security Council said it would “react strongly” if Pyongyang “continues to take steps that aggravate the situation”.

“All responsibility for repercussions stemming from this action falls squarely on the North,” it added.

The US, European Union and Russia all called for restraint.

A State Department spokesperson said Washington urges the North to “refrain from further counterproductive actions”, while the Kremlin called the escalation a “concern’ and said it would be monitoring closely.

The EU warned Pyongyang against taking further “provocative and damaging steps”.

The liaison office — in a dormant industrial zone where Southern companies once employed Northern workers — was opened in September 2018, days before the South’s President Moon Jae-in flew to Pyongyang for his third summit with Kim.

Around 20 officials from each side were stationed at the office during subsequent months.

But inter-Korean relations soured following the collapse of the Hanoi summit between Kim and US President Donald Trump in February last year over sanctions relief and what the North would be willing to give up in return.

Operations at the office were suspended in January because of the coronavirus pandemic.

And since early June, North Korea has issued a series of vitriolic condemnations of the South over activists sending anti-Pyongyang leaflets over the border — something defectors do on a regular basis.

Pyongyang’s official Korean Central News Agency said Tuesday the liaison office’s destruction was in line with “the mindset of the enraged people to surely force human scum and those who have sheltered the scum to pay dearly for their crimes”.

Last week Pyongyang announced it was severing all official communication links with Seoul.

“North Korea has started a provocation cycle with stages of escalation,” said Leif-Eric Easley, a professor at Ewha University in Seoul, calling the destruction of the office “a symbolic blow to inter-Korean reconciliation and cooperation”.

“The Kim regime is also signalling the United States won’t have the luxury of keeping North Korea on the back-burner for the remainder of the year,” he added.

Relations soured

Since Pyongyang condemned the leaflet launches — usually attached to hot air balloons or floated in bottles — the Unification ministry has filed a police complaint against two defector groups and warned of a “thorough crackdown” against activists.

On Monday, the left-leaning Moon urged the North not to “close the window of dialogue”.

The two Koreas remain technically at war after Korean War hostilities ended with an armistice in 1953 that was never replaced with a peace treaty.

Last week the North criticised Trump in a stinging denunciation of the US on the second anniversary of the Singapore summit, with its foreign minister Ri Son Gwon accusing Washington of seeking regime change.

US diplomats insist that they believe Kim promised in Singapore to give up his nuclear arsenal, something Pyongyang has taken no steps to do.

The North is under multiple international sanctions over its banned weapons programmes.

It believes it deserves to be rewarded for its moratorium on nuclear and intercontinental ballistic missile tests and the disabling of its atomic test site, along with the return of jailed US citizens and remains of soldiers killed in the Korean War.

“Nothing is more hypocritical than an empty promise,” Ri said in his statement, carried by the official KCNA news agency.

Cheong Seong-chang, director of the Sejong Institute’s Center for North Korean Studies, said: “North Korea is frustrated that the South has failed to offer an alternative plan to revive the US-North talks, let alone create a right atmosphere for the revival.

“It has concluded the South has failed as a mediator in the process.”

North Korea Blows Up Liaison Office With South

People watch a television news screen showing an explosion of an inter-Korean liaison office in North Korea’s Kaesong Industrial Complex, at a railway station in Seoul on June 16, 2020. Jung Yeon-je / AFP

 

 

North Korea blew up an inter-Korean liaison office on its side of the border on Tuesday, the South’s Unification Ministry said, after days of increasingly virulent rhetoric from Pyongyang.

“North Korea blows up Kaesong Liaison Office at 14:49,” the ministry, which handles inter-Korean relations, said in a one-line alert sent to reporters.

The statement came minutes after an explosion was heard and smoke seen rising from the long-shuttered joint industrial zone in Kaesong where the liaison office was set up less than two years ago, Yonhap news agency reported citing unspecified sources.

Its destruction came after Kim Yo Jong, the powerful sister of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, said at the weekend: “Before long, a tragic scene of the useless north-south joint liaison office completely collapsed would be seen.”

Analysts say Pyongyang may be seeking to manufacture a crisis to increase pressure on Seoul while nuclear negotiations with Washington are at a standstill.

Since early June, North Korea has issued a series of vitriolic condemnations of the South over activists sending anti-Pyongyang leaflets over the border — something defectors do on a regular basis.

Last week it announced it was severing all official communication links with South Korea.

The leaflets — usually attached to hot air balloons or floated in bottles — criticise North Korean leader Kim Jong Un for human rights abuses and his nuclear ambitions.

“North Korea is frustrated that the South has failed to offer an alternative plan to revive the US-North talks, let alone create a right atmosphere for the revival,” said Cheong Seong-chang, a director of the Sejong Institute’s Center for North Korean Studies.

“It has concluded the South has failed as a mediator in the process.”

The liaison office was opened in September 2018, days before the South’s President Moon Jae-in flew to Pyongyang for his third summit with Kim.

– Relations soured –

Officials from both sides were stationed at the office during subsequent months, but inter-Korean relations soured following the collapse of the Hanoi summit between Kim and US President Donald Trump in February last year.

Its operations were suspended in January because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Since Pyongyang condemned the leaflet launches, Seoul’s unification ministry has filed a police complaint against two defector groups and warned of a “thorough crackdown” against activists.

On Monday, the left-leaning Moon urged the North not to “close the window of dialogue”.

Earlier Tuesday, North Korea’s army said it was “fully ready” to take action against the South, including re-entering areas that had been demilitarised under an inter-Korean agreement.

The two Koreas remain technically at war after the Korean War hostilities ended with an armistice in 1953 that was never replaced with a peace treaty.

AFP

Schools Reopen In South Korea As COVID-19 Fears Ease

Students wearing facemasks amid concerns over the COVID-19 novel coronavirus undergo a temperature check as they arrive at Keongbok High School in Seoul on May 20, 2020. Ed JONES / AFP.

 

Hundreds of thousands of South Korean students returned to school on Wednesday as educational establishments started reopening after a coronavirus delay of more than two months.

Students lined up for temperature checks and were given sanitisers to wash their hands as they entered school premises while teachers greeted them with smiles and occasional elbow bumps.

“It’s really exciting to meet my friends and teachers face to face, but we have to strictly follow the disinfection guidelines,” said Oh Chang-hwa, student president of Kyungbock High School in Seoul.

“I am very worried but it’s still nice to see them again,” Oh told AFP.

South Korea endured one of the worst early outbreaks of the virus — at one point the second-worst hit nation after mainland China — prompting officials to delay the reopening of schools in early March.

But it appears to have brought its outbreak under control thanks to an extensive “trace, test and treat” programme.

Around 440,000 final-year students, who will in December take the university entrance exam that is crucial in the education-obsessed country, are the first to return to schools, with other years following in stages over the next several weeks.

Inside the school buildings, students are asked to wipe their desks and sit apart according to social distancing guidelines, with some classes setting up partitions between desks.

But 66 schools in Incheon, near Seoul, were closed soon after re-opening and their students sent back home after two pupils were diagnosed with the virus, a spokesman at the Incheon Metropolitan City Office of Education said.

The episode illustrates the challenge of reopening schools while at the same time seeking to prevent transmission of the virus.

“Concerns over small infection clusters still remain and no one can predict what kind of situation will arise at schools,” education minister Yoo Eun-hae said.

The education ministry began operating a 24-hour emergency situation room this week, Yoo said, adding that any schools that report fresh infections will be shut immediately.

While final-year students are required to come to school every day, younger pupils will shift between online and offline classes to ensure school buildings are not overcrowded.

AFP

No Talking Or Goal Celebrations As South Korea Restarts Football Season

In this file photo taken on May 7, 2019, Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors players celebrate scoring a goal during the AFC Champions League group stage football match between China's Beijing Guoan and South Korea's Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors in Beijing.  STR / AFP
In this file photo taken on May 7, 2019, Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors players celebrate scoring a goal during the AFC Champions League group stage football match between China’s Beijing Guoan and South Korea’s Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors in Beijing. STR / AFP

 

South Korea’s football season kicks off on Friday after a two-month coronavirus delay, leading the way for the global game as other leagues strive to return to action.

Goal celebrations, handshakes and even talking are out under stringent new safety guidelines designed to prevent any contagion during games, which will be played behind closed doors.

While countries such as Belarus, Turkmenistan and Taiwan defied the virus to keep playing football, South Korea — the 2002 World Cup co-hosts and semi-finalists — are the first prominent nation in the sport to allow matches.

South Korea endured one of the worst early outbreaks of COVID-19 outside China, prompting professional sports to suspend or delay their seasons, a pattern that was repeated worldwide.

But the country appears to have flattened the curve thanks to an extensive “trace, test and treat” programme, and football’s return comes after baseball started without fans on Tuesday.

The K-League is Asia’s first major competition to return to action, while Europe’s giants remain sidelined with only Germany’s Bundesliga so far making concrete plans to resume.

Friday’s opening game will be between defending champions Jeonbuk Motors — who are managed by Jose Mourinho’s former assistant Jose Morais — and Cup-holders Suwon Bluewings.

Jeonbuk have been the dominant team for the past decade, winning five of the last six league titles, and are again one of the favourites.

Another top contender among the K-League’s 12 teams are Ulsan, who have finished in the top four in each of the past four years.

But it will be football with a difference from Friday, with strict health checks and hygiene measures enforced on the field.

Players and coaching staff are subject to temperature checks ahead of each game and if anyone gets infected during the season, the affected team and those who played against them will have to take a two-week break.

Instead of the traditional pre-game handshakes, players have been asked to bow their heads from a distance, while also avoiding celebrating goals with teammates — and talking.

‘Impossible not to talk’

The K-League’s step-by-step response manual to the virus outbreak has been shared with some 40 professional football competitions worldwide including England’s Premier League and Germany’s Bundesliga, the K-League said.

But questions have been raised about the new safety guidelines.

“It’s impossible not to talk to your teammates,” Incheon United captain Kim Do-hyeok told reporters.

“If we can’t have conversations on the field, we may as well not play football at all.”

The new K-League season will be an oasis of live action in a world where sports fans have been starved of such content by the virus, with broadcasters resorting to repeats of matches from past years.

The lack of live sport has resulted in a new-found global interest in South Korean football.

Ten foreign broadcasters from China, Hong Kong to Croatia have purchased rights to air the upcoming season, while those in Germany, France, Italy, US and Australia have also made inquiries, the K-League said.

The K-League will livestream Friday’s match on YouTube and Twitter with English-language graphics and commentary for international fans, it added in a statement.

On the ground, the K-League said spectators will be allowed back into stadiums progressively as the government eases its quarantining measures.

The new football season comes just two days after the return of professional baseball in South Korea, which has struck a television deal with ESPN for US fans.

And South Korea will next week become the first country to see women’s professional golf resume after COVID-19.

South Korean players dominate women’s golf with eight featuring in the world’s top 20, including number one Ko Jin-young.

The $1.8 million Korea Ladies Professional Golf Association Championship begins on May 14 in Yangju, east of Seoul with world number six Kim Sei-young and 10th-ranked Lee Jeong-eun in the 144-strong field.

South Korea has seen only a trickle of new coronavirus infections in recent days, with two fresh cases reported on Wednesday — both of them overseas arrivals — taking the total to 10,806.

 

AFP

South Korea Returns Largely To Normal As COVID-19 Outbreak Controlled

People wearing face masks walk through an underground shopping area in Seoul on May 6, 2020. – South Korea returned largely to normal on May 6 as workers went back to offices, and museums and libraries reopened under eased social distancing rules after new coronavirus cases dropped to a trickle. Jung Yeon-je / AFP.

 

South Korea returned largely to normal Wednesday as workers went back to offices, and museums and libraries reopened under eased social distancing rules after new coronavirus cases dropped to a trickle.

The South endured one of the worst early outbreaks of the disease outside China and while it never imposed a compulsory lockdown, strict social distancing had been widely observed since March.

Employees were urged to work from home where possible while the new school term was postponed from its March start.

Scores of events — from K-pop concerts to sports seasons — were delayed or cancelled, while museums and galleries were closed and religious services suspended.

But the South appears to have brought its outbreak under control thanks to an extensive “trace, test and treat” programme that has drawn widespread praise.

In a population of 51 million, its death toll is little more than 250, and new cases have slowed to just a handful — 13 in the past three days, all of them arriving international passengers. More than 90 of the South’s imported cases are returning citizens.

At least 100 people visited the National Museum of Korea in Seoul on Wednesday morning, and the first visitors of the day — a married couple — were given a bouquet of flowers by staff.

READ ALSO: Russia Records Over 10,000 New COVID-19 Cases For Fourth Day In Row

“Many of our colleagues also came back to work today, so we are very excited about the reopening, we are very happy,” museum spokeswoman Lee Hyun-ju told AFP.

Some workers were bittersweet about going back to the office.

“I wanted to go home as soon as I sat down at my desk in the office today. But there is also this weird sense of stability,” wrote one Twitter poster.

Another tweeted: “I feel like my holidays are now over.”

The South reported two new infections on Wednesday, taking the total to 10,806, the Korea Centers for Disease Control said.

Some professional sports, including baseball and soccer, are starting their new seasons this week after being postponed over virus fears, although the matches will be played behind closed doors.

Schools are to reopen in stages starting from May 13.

Under what Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun referred to as “everyday life quarantine”, South Koreans are still encouraged to wear face masks and wash their hands frequently, among other recommendations.

AFP

COVID-19: South Korea To Ease Social Distancing Rules

People wait in a line to buy face masks at a retail store in the southeastern city of Daegu on February 25, 2020. Jung Yeon-je / AFP

 

South Korea said Sunday it will loosen social distancing rules this week to allow gatherings and events to take place after the number of new coronavirus cases dropped significantly in recent days.

The country endured one of the worst early outbreaks of the disease outside China and strict social distancing has been widely observed since March.

Scores of events — from K-pop concerts to sports seasons — had been delayed or cancelled, while museums and galleries were closed and religious services suspended.

But the South appears to have brought its outbreak under control thanks to an extensive “trace, test and treat” programme that has drawn widespread praise.

Its reported death toll is around 250 — vastly lower than that of Italy, Britain, Spain and France, which have each recorded at least 24,000 fatalities.

“South Korea will implement the everyday life quarantine scheme starting Wednesday,” Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun said during a government meeting.

READ ALSO: Russia Reports More Than 10,000 New COVID-19 Infections

“Gatherings and events will be permitted under the condition that they follow disinfection measures,” he added.

The South reported 13 new infections on Sunday, taking the total to 10,793, the Korea Centers for Disease Control said.

Some professional sports, including baseball and soccer, are due to start their new seasons this week after being postponed over virus fears, although the matches will be played behind closed doors.

The government is also set to announce this week the dates for students to return to school, which is expected to be some time around mid-May, according to Yonhap news agency.

AFP

South Korea Reports No New Domestic COVID-19 Cases

A medical worker wearing protective gear takes a rest as he waits for ambulances carrying patients infected with the COVID-19 coronavirus at an entrance of a hospital in Daegu on February 23, 2020. YONHAP / AFP

 

South Korea Thursday reported no new locally transmitted coronavirus cases for the first time since the disease was detected in the country more than two months ago.

Health authorities said, however, there was an additional death — taking the toll to 247.

“For the first time in 72 days, we have zero new domestic cases,” President Moon Jae-in posted on his Facebook account.

The country has seen 10,765 cases since its first infection was reported on February 18.

Other parts of Asia have also seen success in bringing outbreaks under control, with Hong Kong going five days with zero new infections and Taiwan four days as of Thursday.

For a time South Korea had the world’s second-largest outbreak, but the spread was tackled through widespread testing and a contact-tracing drive, along with widely observed social distancing.

With a dwindling number of cases, Seoul held a national election on April 15, becoming one of the first with a major outbreak to go to the polls since the global pandemic began.

READ ALSO: German Jobless Total Soars In April Due To COVID-19

The election was run with a raft of safety measures in place, including a requirement that voters wear face masks and gloves.

It saw the highest turnout for a generation and handed President Moon’s Democratic party a parliamentary majority in what was seen as recognition of officials’ handling of the outbreak.

No one had been infected at polling stations, Moon said, adding: “This is the strength of South Korea and its people.”

AFP

COVID-19: South Korea To Ship Coronavirus Testing Kits To US

File: US President Donald Trump speaks with South Korean President Moon Jae-in (not shown)in the Oval Office at the White House in Washington, DC, on April 11, 2019. Nicholas Kamm / AFP

 

South Korean firms will make their first shipment of coronavirus tests to the United States this week after a request by US President Donald Trump, Yonhap news agency reported Monday.

The US has more confirmed COVID-19 cases than anywhere else in the world and also has the highest toll, with more than 22,000 deaths.

In contrast South Korea was once the hardest-hit country outside China, but appears to have brought its outbreak under control with a huge “trace, test and treat” strategy.

It has tested more than half a million people in a process free to anyone referred by doctors or those who have links to a confirmed case.

The Trump administration has been accused of being slow to respond to the outbreak, although the president now regularly re-iterates that the US has tested more individuals than any other country.

After a phone conversation with him last month, South Korean President Moon Jae-in said Trump had asked for test kits.

A Maryland-bound US cargo flight will depart from Incheon International Airport on Tuesday, carrying test kits supplied by two companies, Yonhap reported citing a foreign ministry official in Seoul.

The firms are among three South Korean companies that won interim approval from the US Food and Drug Administration, the report added, without specifying the quantities involved or the manufacturers.

A foreign ministry spokeswoman confirmed to AFP that a shipment of tests would be sent on Tuesday but declined to go into details.

South Korean test kit maker SD Biosensor told AFP last month that it was making 350,000 tests a day and would increase output to a million a day from April, with an eye on exports.

More than 70 percent of the South’s 10,537 confirmed coronavirus patients had recovered as of Sunday, according to South Korean health authorities.

AFP

South Korea Declares ‘War’ On Coronavirus As Cases Exceed 5,000

South Korean President Moon Jae-in (3rd R) and his ministers wearing face masks attend a cabinet meeting at the government complex in Seoul on March 3, 2020.  YONHAP / AFP

 

South Korean President Moon Jae-in declared “war” against the coronavirus on Tuesday, as the country reported its biggest daily case increase to date, sending its total past 5,000 — the largest in the world outside China.

South Korea has seen a rapid rise in infections in recent days and scores of events — from K-pop concerts to sports seasons — have been cancelled or postponed over the contagion, with school and kindergarten breaks extended by three weeks nationwide.

The central bank has warned of a contraction in the first quarter for the world’s 12th-largest economy, noting the epidemic will hit both consumption and exports.

Moon said the government will inject more than 30 trillion won ($25 billion) into the economy to address the “grave” situation brought on by the outbreak.

“The entire country has entered a war with the infectious disease,” Moon said, ordering all government agencies to operate around the clock.

South Korea confirmed 851 new cases Tuesday, taking the national total to 5,186, the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said, adding that two more people had died, raising the toll to 28.

More than half of the cases have been linked to the Shincheonji Church of Jesus, a secretive religious group often described as a cult.

A 61-year-old female Shincheonji member developed a fever on February 10 but attended at least four services in Daegu — the country’s fourth-largest city with a population of 2.5 million and the centre of the outbreak — before being diagnosed.

Authorities said more than 190,000 members had been checked as of Tuesday.

Lee Man-hee, the 88-year-old founder of the sect, apologised for the outbreak on Monday — twice bowing his head to the ground at a televised press conference — insisting his organisation was cooperating with the government’s containment efforts.

Seoul city authorities have filed a complaint with prosecutors seeking to have him and other Shincheonji leaders charged with murder and other offences.

Around 90 percent of the cases have been in Daegu and the neighbouring province of North Gyeongsang, the KCDC said.

AFP