(LEAD) Ruling party to hold virtual party convention amid surge of infections
(ATTN: UPDATES with more info in last 3 paras)
SEOUL, Aug. 19 (Yonhap) -- The ruling Democratic Party (DP) announced a plan Wednesday to elect its new leader in a virtual event, instead of an initially planned large-scale offline ceremony, out of concern about the rapid spread of the new coronavirus.
The convention will be held at the party's headquarters in Yeouido, western Seoul, next week, and livestreamed online, according to Rep. Jang Chul-min, a spokesman for the party's convention preparation committee.
Only some 50 people, including candidates and party staff members, will attend the event, he added.
The decision came after the government toughened social distancing restrictions in response to a spike in COVID-19 infections especially in the Seoul metropolitan area.
The convention, set for Aug. 29, was to bring together some 600 party members at Olympic Gymnastics Arena in eastern Seoul to select the party's new head and five top party representatives.
The latest party decision to turn to an online event came as South Korea is gripped with concerns about a second wave of mass coronavirus outbreaks.
South Korea added 297 new virus infections Wednesday, the sixth straight day that the daily tally has increased by a triple-digit number. More than 250 cases reported Wednesday stemmed from the greater capital area.
In light of the recent surge, South Korea placed Seoul, Gyeonggi Province and Incheon, a port city west of Seoul, under Level Two social distancing, prohibiting indoor gatherings of 50 or more people and banning worship services at Protestant churches and operations of other high-risk public facilities such as bars and karaoke rooms in the greater Seoul area.
The virus resurgence also roiled political circles, especially the ruling party in the lead-up to the party convention.
Rep. Lee Nak-yon, the ruling party's leading candidate in the party chairman election, was tested for the virus after he indirectly contacted a COVID-19 patient during a radio interview on Monday at a studio of radio broadcaster CBS. The test result for Lee came back negative.
Appearing on the same radio program, Lee used the same microphone as a journalist who later tested positive for the virus, although the two did not come into direct contact.
Two other lawmakers, Rep. Kim Young-min of the DP and Rep. Choi Hyung-du of the main opposition United Future Party (UFP), also got tested after indirectly contacting the journalist.
The latest outbreak has also affected the National Assembly's operations.
A session of its Intelligence Committee and other party arrangements planned for the day have been postponed.
Former UFP lawmaker Cha Myeong-jin tested positive for the virus after attending an anti-government street rally last weekend.
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