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(LEAD) Novel coronavirus expected to weigh on S. Korea's economy: finance minister

All News 09:07 February 03, 2020

(ATTN: ADDS remarks, details in paras 5-9)

SEOUL, Feb. 3 (Yonhap) -- The rapid spread of the novel coronavirus is expected to weigh on South Korea's economy unless the epidemic is contained swiftly, Finance Minister Hong Nam-ki said Monday.

The coronavirus epidemic has had a limited impact on the Korean economy so far, but it is difficult to determine how the virus will affect the nation's economy, Hong told a meeting with economy-related ministers earlier in the day.

"There is a high possibility that this situation could slow China's economy," Hong said. "In this case, it will have a negative impact on the global economy."

The government will spare no efforts to minimize the economic fallout from the virus, Hong said.

Finance Minister Hong Nam-ki speaks at a meeting with economy-related ministers on Feb. 3, 2020. (Yonhap)

Hong said the government will swiftly take action to stabilize financial markets if volatility grows amid the spread of the virus.

The government will take "preemptive and swift" measures if volatility in financial markets increase, Hong said.

Hong also issued a warning against price-rigging of face masks, saying the government will punish those who engage in price-rigging as demand for face masks surges.

South Korea has 15 confirmed cases of the virus, believed to have originated in the Chinese central city of Wuhan. The virus has killed 350 people in China's Hubei province, where Wuhan is the capital city.

Starting Tuesday, South Korea will temporarily ban foreigners who have visited Hubei within 14 days from entering the nation.

South Korea's exports fell at a slower-than-expected pace in January but extended the slump to a 14th-consecutive month due to fewer working days and still weak demand for chips.

Outbound shipments came to US$43.35 billion last month, down 6.1 percent from $46.17 billion a year earlier, according to the data compiled by the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy.

But when measured by working days, exports increased 4.8 percent in January to reach $2 billion a day, marking the first on-year increase in 14 months, according to the ministry.


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