SEOUL, SOUTH KOREA, February 19, 2020 – The Seoul Metropolitan Government announced its plan on February 18 to minimize the impact from COVID-19 on the local economy and effectively support businesses to overcome difficulties resulted from the virus.
Under the manifesto “We must do whatever it takes to prevent infectious diseases even if it may mean extreme measures,” the city government will focus on protecting citizens and making them less concerned. To do so, it will carry out 15 projects in three areas: i.e., disinfecting workplaces to reassure people; supporting businesses affected by the outbreak; and boosting domestic consumption to help citizens go back to normal lives.
Besides, 2,700 jobs will be created to the public sector for disinfection including 1,000 jobs for 350 conventional markets. Online delivery services for shopping in conventional markets will be extended for shoppers reluctant to visit offline market as they might pick up the virus.
The first round of disinfection has been conducted since February 5 for 9,334 shops in eight markets in downtown and southeastern part of Seoul crowded by visitors and tourists from other countries starting from Namdaemun market. The second round is planned for 216 markets including 69 underground and un-registered markets, which will be completed on February 18.
Although conventional markets are run in safe and “clean” manners, many people are still reluctant to visit. The city government plans to deploy an application for 35 markets enabling shoppers to make order and payment online.
In total, 2,700 jobs in the public sector for disinfection will be created for disadvantaged people. Firstly, 1,000 people will be hired to disinfect conventional markets for a short period of time. Then, 1,700 more jobs will be created to hire those from affected industries such as tourism or small businesses, and the unemployed.
Also, people can buy up to 1 million won worth of the gift certificate a month issued by the Seoul Metropolitan Government, which is sold at 10% discount in order to boost sales in conventional markets and small vendors. The monthly purchase limit doubled temporarily from February 20 to the end of April. Users of the certificate can get up to 100,000 won discount for a month.
The city government will take measures to boost domestic consumption. The measures are (i) providing emergency fund and tax relief for SMEs and small vendors; and (ii) survey businesses to find which industry or field is affected and offer customized support.
The Seoul Metropolitan Government has been granting 500 billion won loan to struggling SMEs and small vendors since February 5. Seoul will set up the “ad-hoc fund to stabilize management of small businesses affected by COVID-19” and provide fund at the low interest rate of 1% for small vendors who had to shut down due to required or self-quarantine or who lost businesses as they had been visited by a confirmed patient.
Besides, it will provide more tax-breaks and give information to make sure citizens are better informed. For small businesses, confirmed patient and quarantined people including foreigners, the city will extend the due for local taxes. In case the outbreak stays longer, it plans to provide more tax-breaks such as postponing the collection of regular taxes such as property tax and have Seoul Metropolitan Council approve to lower local taxes.
The Seoul Metropolitan Government will spend 21 trillion 904.3 billion won, 62.5% of the entire budget of Seoul and its counties in the first half of this year to stimulate the economy and provide a one-stop support for affected businesses. At the same time, the city will survey 1,000 businesses in affected industries and come up with additional measures customized for each industry and field.
The city will also spend 2 trillion 520 billion won, 60% of the public procurement budget by June this year to buy goods from SMEs and save no effort to boost the domestic consumption by executing budget in all areas where the city works on projects or inputs its budget.
Once things settle, the city will host grand fairs and festivals for SMEs, small vendors and conventional markets. Using “Seoul Made” with the city’s value and brand, it will expand the overseas supply network in cooperation with overseas distributors and conduct promotion and marketing activities utilizing Hallyu. By doing so, the city will make sure the “immediate countermeasures” stay effective and consumer sentiment comes back to normal.