Ministry of Trade, Industry, and Energy (MOTIE) said today that it will exempt local producers of masks and sanitary products from the 52-hour workweek restriction, as such companies are experiencing an unexpected surge in their workloads amid the fast-spreading new coronavirus.In July 2018, South Korea launched a reduction of the maximum number of weekly working hours to 52, from the previous 68 hours, as part of efforts to help people spend more leisure time with family and friends.
Under the system, companies can still request a temporary extension in case of disasters and major accidents.
"We plan to grant local mask producers an exception from the workweek limit, without any delay, if they desire. One company already received permission immediately after making an application," an official from MOTIE said.
The novel virus has been spreading quickly throughout Asia and other parts of the globe since being first reported late last year. As of Tuesday morning, the virus has killed more than 400 in China and infected around 20,000 others.
South Korea has reported 16 confirmed coronavirus cases since the first case was identified here on Jan. 20. With the virus spreading at an alarming rate, prices of facial masks shot up here in tune with rising demand for hygiene products. Authorities are banning hoarding of sanitary products. Those who stock up such items could face up to two years in prison and a maximum of 50 million won (US$41,900) in fines. Seoul earlier launched a special investigation team of 120 members to crack down on retailers driving up the prices of masks.
The country also vowed to keep its economy intact from the new coronavirus and roll out countermeasures if necessary.
Earlier this week, Seoul said it will chip in 400 billion won to support exporters potentially facing troubles due to the outbreak of the new coronavirus in China. China is the top trading partner of South Korea, taking up a quarter of the combined exports in 2019.