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(LEAD) Moon visits Namdaemun Market amid coronavirus woes

Politics 16:30 February 12, 2020

(ATTN: UPDATES with more remarks, other details from 9th para; ADDS photo)

SEOUL, Feb. 12 (Yonhap) -- President Moon Jae-in toured Namdaemun Market in central Seoul Wednesday, his second visit to a local traditional market in three days, as concern is mounting about the impact of the COVID-19 virus outbreak on the economy.

Moon's "on-site economy-related" activities are meant to encourage merchants, who are suffering difficulties due to the viral outbreak, and to demonstrate the government's commitment to all-out efforts to revitalize the economy, according to Cheong Wa Dae.

Strolling across the market, the president met with vendors and shared worries with them about a sharp reduction in the number of customers.

"There's no one going around. It seems like sales have dropped to a third," a fish cake vendor told Moon.

Pesident Moon Jae-in talks with a rice cake vendor at the Namdaemun Market in Seoul on Feb. 12, 2020. (Yonhap)

Namdaemun Market is not just a hot place for Koreans but also one of the most popular tourist attractions in Seoul.

Last year, it drew around 4 million foreign travelers. Recently, however, the number of foreign visitors has plunged due to the spread of the virus that originated in China.

Moon then had a luncheon meeting with several vendors. "Anyway, the government will do its best to support traditional markets, small shop owners and other self-employed people."

"The situations (related to the virus) will soon calm down. Let's overcome (the trouble) all together," Moon said.

He reiterated that it's "being confirmed that we don't need to be excessively anxious" about the virus, which has relatively a low fatality rate when properly treated. South Korea has reported a total of 28 cases of the novel coronavirus as of Wednesday afternoon with no deaths.

He emphasized that it's the duty of the government and other authorities to make every effort to contain the disease.

"What's most important is for the people to dispel excessive anxiety and engage in daily activities again, especially brisk economic and consumption ones," he added.

Moon expressed regret that the pandemic is weighing heavily on South Korea's economy, which he said had shown indications of "considerable recovery" beginning late last year.

The number of Chinese tourists in South Korea has contracted nearly 60 percent since Jan. 24, a remarkable turnaround from a 24-percent hike in the first three weeks of this year from the same period in 2019, according to Moon.

He visited the Onyang traditional market in Asan, about 90 kilometers south of Seoul, on the weekend after looking around a quarantine facility there for South Koreans who have been brought back from the central Chinese city of Wuhan.

President Moon Jae-in (2nd from R) holds a luncheon meeting with Namdaemun Market vendors at a restaurant in Seoul on Feb. 12, 2020. (Yonhap)


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