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S. Korea remains watchful of economic fallout from Wuhan coronavirus cases


South Korea said Tuesday it would spare no efforts to tackle with potential economic fallout from the Wuhan coronavirus, while vowing to take steps, if necessary, to minimize any negative impact.

"We are closely examining the impact of the spread (of the virus) in China on its consumption and production, along with the global economy and our exports," Finance Minister Hong Nam-ki said during an emergency meeting held with related ministries.

"For now, it has had a limited impact on South Korea's domestic consumption and economic activities, but we will still need to closely monitor the issue," Hong added.

South Korea will take cues from similar cases in the past, including the outbreak of the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome in 2015, which claimed nearly 40 lives here and hit Asia's fourth-largest economy hard, Hong added.

Amid rising concerns that the spread of the new deadly virus could pose downside risks to the domestic consumption, Hong said the issue has not yet had a significant impact on sentiment, although Seoul will continue to monitor the situation.

The country said it will spend 20.8 billion won (US$17.6 million) immediately to beef up its quarantine operations and increase the amount if necessary.

South Korea also believes the global spread of the virus will not have a significant impact on its exports in the short term, although the country may face a bumpy road ahead should the disease spread further across China to hurt its consumption and economic growth.

China is the top trading partner of South Korea, taking up a quarter of the combined exports in 2019.

Last year, South Korea's overall exports moved down 10.3 percent amid the protracted trade row between Washington and Beijing.

South Korea earlier said it expected exports to rise 3 percent this year, on the back of the eased tension between the world's top two economies and the recovery of the global chip industry.

The country, whose exports have been decreasing on-year for a whopping 13 consecutive months as of December, is expected to post a rebound in February, although the turnaround can be delayed depending on the development of the case.

South Korea has been on extreme alert as the fourth confirmed case of virus was detected here on Monday.

Earlier this week, President Moon Jae-in ordered a thorough check of all entrants from the Chinese city of Wuhan, stressing the need for "preemptive measures" to prevent the situation from worsening through secondary infection.

As of Monday, the total number of cases worldwide had reached nearly 3,000, with the number of deaths exceeding 80.

Outside China, Japan, Taiwan, Thailand, Vietnam, Singapore, Malaysia, Nepal, Macao, Hong Kong, France, Australia and the United States have reported confirmed cases of the new virus.

The Wuhan coronavirus, first reported on Dec. 31, 2019, was originally believed to be passed to humans from animals but is now known to be transmissible from person to person, although victims may be contracting the virus by coming in contact with saliva and other bodily fluids rather than through airborne factors. (Yonhap)