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S. Korea to begin inoculating pregnant women, younger children next month

South Korea is poised to begin administering COVID-19 vaccines to pregnant women and younger children starting next month as part of its inoculation campaign.

The Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA) will announce the list of fourth-quarter vaccine recipients next Monday to achieve its goal of herd immunity by November.

The country’s vaccination campaign started Feb. 26 with some virus-vulnerable groups and front-line medical workers being prioritized for inoculations.

A total of 37.13 million people have received their first shots of COVID-19 vaccines, accounting for 72.3 percent of the country’s population, while those who are fully vaccinated had reached 22.58 million, accounting for 44 percent, as of Friday.

Those who have been excluded from the inoculation program, including pregnant women and youths aged between 12 and 17, are scheduled to receive first doses in the fourth quarter.

The plan also reportedly includes providing booster shots to deal with the more contagious delta variant, which has been the main culprit behind the current fourth wave of the outbreak.

Priority groups, including the elderly population and healthcare workers who received the first jab in February, are likely to receive booster shots first.

South Korea has secured enough shots to fully vaccinate 99 million people with vaccines from Moderna Inc., Pfizer Inc., AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen.

On Friday, the country’s daily coronavirus cases reached an all-time high of 2,434, breaking the previous record of 2,221 on Aug. 10, as mass migrations during the Chuseok holiday caused the rapid spread of the virus across the country.

The KDCA had expected the surge in daily virus cases after millions of South Koreans travelled to their hometowns during Chuseok, the Korean equivalent of Thanksgiving, which ran from Monday to Wednesday.

Military reports 9 COVID-19 cases

Eight service members and an Army civilian employee have tested positive for the new coronavirus, raising the total caseload reported among the military population to 1,732, the defense ministry said Saturday.

Seven of them — one airman, two Marines, three soldiers and an Army civilian employee — were confirmed to have contracted COVID-19 during or after a vacation, while the others were found to have been infected after developing symptoms, according to the ministry.
The infections were reported across the country, from Seoul to the eastern border town of Goseong and the southeastern city of Daegu, in the wake of the mass migration during the Chuseok holiday that ran from Monday to Wednesday.

On Saturday, South Korea reported an all-time high number of daily coronavirus cases for the second consecutive day with 3,273 infections. The total caseload rose to 298,402.

(LEAD) Daily virus cases in Seoul exceed 1,000 for first time

Daily coronavirus cases in Seoul surpassed 1,000 for the first time following this week’s Chuseok holiday, health authorities said Saturday.

The Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA) said 1,222 new COVID-19 cases were confirmed during the 24 hours before midnight. Of them, 1,217 were local infections and five were imported cases.

The number is far higher than the city’s previous record high of 907 cases announced Friday.

The city added three more deaths from COVID-19, raising the death toll to 630.

The total caseload reached 95,949 in the capital, with a population of more than 9.58 million.

New cases across the country also hit an all-time high of 3,273, the KDCA reported.

The surge is largely attributable to a sharp increase in the number of virus tests following the Chuseok holiday, which ran from Monday to Wednesday, officials said.

A total of 81,599 people underwent tests in Seoul Wednesday, compared with 30,000-50,000 per day from Saturday to Tuesday, according to the city government. The number reached an all-time high of 110,589 on Thursday and 104,524 on Friday.

Over the past two weeks, the average daily number of new cases was 725 and the average daily number of tests was 64,118, the city government said.

The test positivity rate as of Saturday was 1.1 percent.

Transmission routes are unknown for 616 cases, or 50.4 percent of the new cases announced Saturday, the city government said.

The greater Seoul area, which also includes neighboring Gyeonggi Province and Incheon, accounted for 77 percent of the total infections announced Saturday. The metropolitan area is home to half of the nation’s 52 million population.

K-pop band NCT 127 debuts on British Official Albums Chart

South Korean boy band NCT 127 has made it onto Britain’s Official Charts with its latest album “Sticker.”

Its third studio album debuted at No. 40 on the Official Albums Chart Top 10 on Friday (local time), just one week after its release on Sept. 17.

The nine-piece K-pop act has been listed on the Billboard charts of the United States several times. But this is the first time for the band to enter the top British albums chart, which is compiled by the Official Charts Company based on sales of CDs, downloads, vinyl and weighted audio streams.

The album also came in 10th on both the Official Album Sales Chart and the Official Physical Albums Chart, and ranked No. 68 on the Official Album Downloads Chart.

“Sticker” offers a mix of genres from hip-hop and R&B to pop and dance in a total of 11 tracks, including the title track “Sticker,” “Lemonade” and “Breakfast.” It sold about 2.15 million copies during the first week.

NCT 127 debuted in 2016 as a subunit of the umbrella boy band NCT. While based in Seoul, it has also gained a large following overseas, especially in the U.S.

Top diplomats of S. Korea, Mexico agree to expand public health cooperation

Foreign Minister Chung Eui-yong has held talks with his Mexican counterpart, Marcelo Ebrard, in New York and agreed to boost cooperation, including in the public health sector to better respond to infectious diseases, the foreign ministry said Saturday.

Chung and Ebrard discussed a range of regional and bilateral issues Friday (New York time) during a breakfast meeting on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly session.

“The two ministers agreed to push for signing a deal on public health cooperation, and Minister Ebrard particularly expressed hope for South Korean firms’ entry in the Mexican pharmaceutical market,” the ministry said in a release.

Chung called for the resumption of free trade agreement (FTA) negotiations between the two countries and stressed the need for South Korea to join the Pacific Alliance — a trade bloc comprising Chile, Colombia, Peru and Mexico — as an associate member.

Ebrard proposed further boosting bilateral ties through various cultural events on the occasion of the 60th anniversary of establishing diplomatic ties between the two countries next year, according to the ministry.

Mexico is the largest export destination for South Korea in the Central and South American region, with outbound shipments there reaching US$8.2 billion in 2020.

(2nd LD ) S . Korea ' s dailyvirus cases exceed 3,00o for firsl time

South Korea’s daily coronavirus cases on Saturday exceeded 3,000 for the first time since the start of the pandemic as people returned home from the Chuseok holiday.

The country reported an all-time high number of daily cases for the second consecutive day by adding 3,273, including 3,245 local infections, raising the total caseload to 298,402, according to the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA).

Saturday’s daily caseload jumped 842 from the previous day’s record high of 2,431, marking the highest since the country reported its first COVID-19 case in January last year.

The surge in daily cases came as millions of South Koreans returned home after Chuseok, the Korean autumn harvest celebration, which ran from Monday to Wednesday.

Daily cases have stayed over 1,000 for the last 81 days amid the fast spread of the more transmissible delta variant across the country.

Health authorities warned of a further hike in cases, as around 1 million citizens were awaiting their coronavirus test results Friday following the mass migration during the Chuseok holiday.

KDCA Commissioner Jeong Eun-kyeong urged citizens to cancel private gatherings for the next two weeks, saying the daily caseload could jump even more during the period.

Jeong warned a further spike in new cases could lead to more patients in serious condition, putting a strain on the country’s medical system.

The government had considered gradually shifting to a “With Corona” policy in late October, but that plan is also expected to be reevaluated if the current pace of the virus spread continues.

“To return to our normal life, the most important thing is keeping the virus situation at a stable level until late October when 70 percent of the country’s population is expected to be fully vaccinated,” Jeong said during a regular press briefing.

The country added seven more deaths from COVID-19, raising the death toll to 2,441. The fatality rate was 0.82 percent.

The Seoul metropolitan area, home to half of the nation’s 52 million population, accounted for 77 percent of the total infections.

Seoul reported 1,222 cases, marking the first time for the figure to surpass the 1,000 mark. The surrounding Gyeonggi Province reported 1,102 cases, and the western port city of Incheon added 201 cases.

The greater Seoul area, the hotbed of South Korea’s latest wave of the pandemic, has been under Level 4 distancing measures, the highest in the country’s four-tier system, since July with most other areas being under Level 3.

The bans on private gatherings were eased during the latest holiday, allowing up to eight people to gather on the condition that four of them are fully vaccinated.

But the authorities tightened the restrictions, limiting the number of private gatherings to a maximum of six starting Friday.

Asked if social distancing rules could be further tightened in the wake of the spike in new cases, Jeong said they will have to see the virus trend until at least next week.

As of Friday, a total of 37.8 million people, or 74 percent of the country’s population, have received their first shots of COVID-19 vaccines, and 23 million people, or 45 percent, have been fully vaccinated, the KDCA said.

Of 21,741 patients aged 18 or older confirmed between Sept. 5-18, 85.5 percent had either not received any vaccine shots or been partially inoculated, officials said.

Under a goal to achieve herd immunity by November, the government plans to begin administering COVID-19 vaccines to pregnant women and people aged between 12 and 17 next month.

Earlier in the day, over 1 million doses of coronavirus vaccines produced by Moderna Inc. arrived in South Korea following a supply disruption at the U.S. pharmaceutical company.

Imported cases came to 28, including four from Uzbekistan, and three each from Myanmar and Mongolia.

The number of patients with serious symptoms across the country reached 339, up 30 from the previous day.

The total number of people released from quarantine after making full recoveries was 266,414, up 1,922 from a day earlier.

Authorities, meanwhile, corrected Friday’s daily caseload from 2,434 to 2,431, citing three erroneous reporting and test results.

Corporate direct financing slips 7.9 pct in August

South Korea’s corporate direct financing fell 7.9 percent on month in August due to a decline in sales of bonds, data showed Friday.

Local companies raised a combined 19.35 trillion won (US$16.4 billion) by selling stocks and bonds in August, down 1.66 trillion won from a month ago, according to the data from the Financial Supervisory Service (FSS).

Corporate stock sales rose 10.3 percent to 4.05 trillion won, with the value of initial public offerings jumping 27.4 percent to 4 trillion won.

Local businesses’ bond offerings declined 12.3 percent on-month to 14.9 trillion won in August.

Last month, the issuance of asset-backed securities soared 156.3 percent on-month to 1.89 trillion won, according to the data.

Samsung reinforcing supply chain in Asia to expand production

Samsung Electronics Co. is reinforcing its supply chain in Asia to meet increased demand of its products amid the pandemic, industry insiders said Friday, as the South Korean tech giant eyes to build more plants and expand its workforce.

Samsung is currently building a TV manufacturing plant in Karachi, Pakistan. It is expected to be in operation in the fourth quarter of the year and produce 50,000 units annually.

The news was recently revealed by Abdul Razak Dawood, adviser for commerce and investment to the Pakistani Prime Minister, via Twitter.

“I have been informed that Samsung Electronics is in the process of establishing their TV line-up plant in collaboration with the R&R Industries at Karachi,” he said.

Samsung is the world’s largest TV manufacturer. It accounted for 31 percent of the global TV market in terms of sales revenue in the first six months of 2021, according to data from industry researcher Omdia.

The company is also building a mobile phone factory in Karachi. It was recently announced by Lucky Motor Corp., a car manufacturer in Pakistan, that its automotive plant will be repurposed to produce Samsung’s mobile devices.

Industry insiders expect Samsung will produce mid-to-low segment Galaxy A and Galaxy M series smartphones from the plant.
In Vietnam, Samsung’s main production base for smartphones, the company is expanding its workforce to beef up productions.

Samsung, the world’s largest smartphone maker, recently said it will hire 1,000 workers for its smartphone factory in Bac Ninh Province, just north of Hanoi. Last month, the company said it will recruit an additional 3,000 workers for its factory in Thai Nguyen, northern Vietnam.

The latest move targets to expand Samsung’s production of foldable smartphones to meet their increasing popularity, industry observers said.

Samsung recently released the Galaxy Z Fold3 and Galaxy Z Flip3 foldable smartphones to strengthen its presence in the premium segment. Such products have been popular globally, with the company experiencing delivery delays due to increased preorders.

S. Korea to end injecting public funds into overseas coal projects

South Korea said Friday it will refrain from injecting public funds into overseas coal projects starting in October, in line with the global initiatives to gradually phase out traditional energy sources and go carbon neutral by 2050.

Under the new guideline to be implemented next month, all public organizations will no longer disburse funds to overseas coal power plants, while private businesses in which the government has a stake will also be induced to follow the measure, according to the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy.

South Korea made the announcement during the Leaders Summit on Climate in April.

The public funds encompass all types of tax-backed support, including official development assistance, export finances and investment.

Considering its economic and diplomatic ties with partner countries, South Korea said it will still maintain the continuity of existing projects.

South Korea said it will also actively participate in the global discussions to cut the use of fossil fuels, including those from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, with the goal of applying stricter measures to local coal plants as well.