Coronavirus Brings Private Consumption to Grinding Halt

      March 21, 2020 08:14

      Private consumption in Korea has come to a grinding halt as many people stay indoors amid the coronavirus scare.

      Sales at department store and other retailers have declined by 20 to 30 percent, while the number of Chinese tourists visiting Korea has plummeted more than 70 percent since the epidemic started spreading here in February.

      According to the Ministry of Economy and Finance, car sales declined 24.6 percent last month compared to the same period of 2019, the weakest sales since January of 2009 in the aftermath of the global financial crisis.

      Department store sales dropped 30.6 percent over the same period, while retail sales overall fell 19.6 percent.

      "Economic activity and consumer sentiment have shrunk due to the epidemic, while uncertainties are growing in financial markets," the ministry said. "Global economic growth forecasts are being lowered, while volatility is increasing in the raw material and financial markets, raising the risks of further dips in the global economy."

      A superstore in Seoul is deserted in this file photo taken in early February.

      Last month, the ministry said it spotted "positive signs" of an economic recovery, but that was before the epidemic struck. Kim Young-hoon at the ministry said, "Outdoor activities have declined sharply since Feb. 19, when a massive spike in infections was reported, while major service-sector indices have declined."

      The number of Chinese tourists fell 76.1 percent last month compared to February 2019.

      Only online shopping malls are bucking the trend with sales surging 27.4 percent as more and more people order goods from home.

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