Some Samsung, Hyundai workers self-quarantine as Korean Inc braces for virus impact

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By Hyunjoo Jin and Joyce Lee

SEOUL (Reuters) – Some South Korean workers at Samsung Electronics (KS:) and Hyundai Motor (KS:) are staying home as a precautionary measure as corporate Korea scrambles to prevent the coronavirus outbreak from disrupting its home market.

About 1,500 workers of Samsung Electronics’ phone complex in the southeastern city of Gumi have self-quarantined, after one of its workers was infected with the disease, a person familiar with the matter said.

They include 900 workers who commute to Gumi from neighboring Daegu city, the person said. Daegu is the epicenter of the virus outbreak in South Korea.

South Korea on Monday reported 161 new cases of the coronavirus, bringing the total number of infected patients in the country to 763, a day after the government raised its infectious disease alert to its highest level.

While most of the new cases were traced to the southeastern city of Daegu, almost all major cities and provinces reported some infections.

Daegu and other southeastern parts of Korea are an industrial hub in South Korea, Asia’s fourth-biggest economy, and home to factories of Samsung Electronics, Hyundai Motor and a number of others.

Samsung said it has restarted production at its phone factory in Gumi, after closing it over the weekend, adding that the floor where the infected employee worked will resume production on Tuesday.

“As of 1 p.m. KT (0400 GMT) Feb. 24, the Gumi Complex has started normal operations and we expect no impact on production,” Samsung said in a statement, without elaborating further.

Samsung’s Gumi factory accounts for a small portion of its total phone production, but it produces premium phones and foldable phones, research firm Counterpoint said.

Six employees at Hyundai Motor’s factories in the southeastern city of Ulsan are also at home, with four of them linked to a church at the center of the virus outbreak in Daegu, a union spokesman said in a statement.

“We are walking on ice,” one Hyundai factory worker told Reuters.

Another person visited a supplier which was closed after one case was confirmed.

An official at the Hyundai supplier, Seojin Industrial, said health authorities disinfected the factory over the weekend, and it is unclear when production will be resumed.

Ulsan is home to Hyundai’s biggest car factory, and there are a number of suppliers in the city and surrounding areas, which cater not only to the automaker, but exports to the United States, Japan and other markets.

A Hyundai Motor spokesperson said there has been no production disruption so far, as it has an inventory. It has advised employees to refrain from traveling to Ulsan and suppliers in the southeastern area.

It has set up thermal cameras at all of its operations across the nation, including its headquarters in Seoul and checks temperatures. Hyundai also delayed job interviews for entry-level workers starting Monday.

LG Electronics (KS:) said its lab in the city of Incheon, close to Seoul, was closed until Monday after one of its employees there was infected with the virus.

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