Coronavirus News Asia

In South Korea, small businesses get desperate


South Korea has announced aggressive economic measures to keep businesses ticking over, but the aid has not yet reached those in need

With South Korea having apparently “flattened its curve” — i.e. lowered the number of confirmed Covid-19 cases to the point where its medical system can operate without being overwhelmed — South Korean President Moon Jae-in, the National Assembly and local governments have been rolling out a range of  measures to revive the economy.

Last month, Moon announced emergency aid packages to keep the economy afloat, setting up a fund of 100 trillion won ($81 billion) to assist businesses. The National Assembly has also passed an emergency budget of over 11 trillion won, and is expected to pass another imminently.

Moon has also announced that 70% of Koreans will be eligible for government cash grants, and local governments are offering residents “disaster basic income.” Gyeonggi Province, the province surrounding Seoul, has announced that it will provide 100,000 won (US $80.87) to all residents in the province from April 9.

However, bringing an economy that has been firing on only one cylinder for two months back to life is no easy matter. Three self-employed businesspersons told Asia Times that they are in desperate need of aid — but no help is reaching them yet.

The tourism operator

In recent years, a common sight in the streets around Seoul’s flagship tourism icon, the restored medieval palace of Gyeongbokgung, are the droves of domestic and foreign youths embarking upon selfie odysseys while attired in faux traditional attire.

Not this year. Amid the Covid-19 disaster, travel and tourism are among the hardest hit sectors



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