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S. Korea to bolster support for shippers and passenger ship operators amid coronavirus

All News 10:00 February 17, 2020

By Kang Yoon-seung

SEOUL, Feb. 17 (Yonhap) -- South Korea said Monday it will provide local shipping firms and passenger line operators with financial support of around 60 billion won (US$50 million) along with other incentives to minimize the economic fallout of the new coronavirus.

The measures aim at supporting the firms facing hurdles due to the COVID-19 virus epidemic in China that has dealt a harsh blow to consumer sentiment and business activities in the world's No. 2 economy, the Ministry of Oceans and Fisheries said in a statement.

The transport of cargo and passengers to China by sea has been partially or fully shut down over the past few weeks amid an outbreak of COVID-19 that has claimed more than 1,700 lives there so far.

A ferry ticket office at Incheon Port International Passenger Terminal, located in Incheon, west of Seoul, is empty in this file photo taken on Feb. 2, 2020. (Yonhap)

Under the steps, South Korea will provide low-interest loans worth 30 billion won for local passenger line operators, whose routes to China have been suspended since the end of last month due to the deadly virus.

South Korea plans to fully exempt the firms of port dues until their schedules to China are normalized. It will also provide discounts even after routes are partially resumed until the spread of the virus is fully eradicated.

The companies will also be eligible to apply for financial subsidies to maintain their employment of staff amid the downturn.

Port cargo handling firms will receive low-interest loans worth 30 billion won, along with discounts on their port fees. China accounted for around 17 percent of South Korea's combined outbound and inbound cargo in 2019.

"Through the emergency measures, we plan to lift business uncertainties for related industries and maintain the maritime transportation system," Oceans Minister Moon Seong-hyeok said. "The country will continue to establish countermeasures for a possible drawn-out slump."

colin@yna.co.kr
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