Thousands Go Bankrupt as Pandemic Drags on

  • By Kim Shin-young

    April 20, 2021 09:43

    Thousands of Koreans are still being forced into bankruptcy as the country sees no way out of the coronavirus pandemic.

    Some 2,622 applications for bankruptcy protection were filed in the first quarter of this year, up 10 percent on-year and 19 percent from the same period in 2019.

    Suh Kyeong-hwan, a judge at Seoul Bankruptcy Court, said, "We have never seen more than 1,000 bankruptcy filings a month before, but now more and more people are turning to the last resort."

    More than 90 percent of bankruptcy filings are accepted.

    A judge enters a courtroom at Seoul Bankruptcy Court on April 14.

    Small businesses owners are not the only ones. Increasingly applicants are salaried workers whose employers went out of business or who otherwise lost their jobs.

    One man in his 40s worked as a contract employee at an airport but lost his job when travel ground to a halt due to the pandemic. Choi tried to find other jobs, but he could not find one and eventually had to borrow money from loan sharks to make ends meet until he finally turned to the court for bankruptcy protection early this month.

    His fate is typical for thousands of Koreans who are trapped in a downward debt spiral after the government failed to secure enough coronavirus vaccines to offer a way out of lockdown.

    President Moon Jae-in's promise that "spring will come early" this year due to a robust economic recovery looks more and more like a distant pipe dream.

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