More than 500 schools closed again Friday to students after briefly reopening, as South Korea moves to stamp out a resurgence of the coronavirus in the capital, Seoul, and its surrounding metropolitan area. Parks, art galleries, museums and theaters operated by the government in the Seoul metropolitan area — home to about half the country’s population of nearly 52 million — have also been closed to the public for the next two weeks.
China and South Korea reimposed lockdowns Monday after a spike in new infections of the coronavirus raised concerns of a second wave of the pandemic. At least 15 cases of the virus have been confirmed in Shulan, China, prompting officials to quarantine 290 people. Meanwhile, South Korea, which eased social distancing requirements last week, recorded a spike in cases linked to nightclubs in Seoul.
A fire at a warehouse in South Korea killed 38 construction workers and left another 10 injured according to reports. The blaze at the unfinished four-storey warehouse site in Icheon on Wednesday, 80km (50 miles) southeast of Seoul, spread “extremely quickly” and rendered those inside “unable to evacuate”, South Korea’s Yonhap news agency reported citing fire officials. Witnesses said they heard at least 10 explosions.
South Korea’s ruling party has won a landslide victory in national assembly elections, in what is being seen as an endorsement of President Moon Jae-in’s response to the coronavirus pandemic. Moon’s left-leaning Democratic party and its smaller affiliate won 180 seats in the 300-seat assembly. Turnout was 66.2%, higher than any parliamentary elections held in South Korea since 1992.
In a surprisingly high turnout, millions of South Korean voters wore masks and moved slowly between lines of tape at polling stations on Wednesday to elect lawmakers in the shadows of the spreading coronavirus. The government resisted calls to postpone the parliamentary elections billed as a midterm referendum on President Moon Jae-in, who enters the final two years of his single five-year term grappling with a historic public health crisis.
South Korea’s president declared war on the coronavirus on Tuesday, ordering additional hospital beds and more face masks to be made available as the number of cases rose by 974 in the worst epidemic of any nation outside China. The virus began to spread rapidly in South Korea after it entered the congregation of a Christian sect in Daegu city. The leader of the sect tested negative for the virus on Monday.
South Korean actor Cha In-ha was found dead in his home, police said Wednesday, making him the third young entertainer to die in the country in the last two months. The news about Cha comes after the recent deaths of two prominent female K-pop idols. On Nov. 24, 28-year-old Goo Hara was found dead in her Seoul home, while Sulli, 25, reportedly ended her life in October.
A South Korean court has sentenced two K-pop stars to six and five years in prison for gang-rape and additionally convicted one of them for distributing videos of the assaults and other sexual encounters. Jung Joon-young, a singer-songwriter, and Choi Jong-hoon, a former member of the boy band FT Island, were found guilty of gang-raping two different women in two incidents in 2016.
South Korea said on Thursday it will scrap an intelligence-sharing pact with Japan, drawing a swift protest from Tokyo and deepening a decades-old dispute over history that has hit trade and undercut security cooperation over North Korea. Seoul’s decision not to extend the General Security of Military Information Agreement (GSOMIA) shows how the political and trade dispute between the Asian neighbors and U.S. allies has hit some of the region’s most sensitive security issues.
Former South Korean president Lee Myung-bak was jailed for 15 years for corruption Friday, October 5, becoming the latest of the country’s ex-leaders to be sent to prison. Lee, in office from 2008 to 2013, is the fourth former South Korean president to be jailed. Lee Myung-bak faced charges of having accepted around US$10 million in illegal funds from institutions like Samsung and his own intelligence service.