2.08 million South Koreans jobless: Pandemic sends unemployment rate to record high

People line up in front of an office run by the Ministry of Employment and Labor in Seoul to apply for unemployment benefits. The amount of state allowances paid to those unemployed or seeking jobs soared to a record high in March due mainly to the negative economic impact from the COVID-19 pandemic.


The number of jobless South Koreans hit a record high in the first four months of the year due mainly to the coronavirus impact, a report showed Monday (18 May 2020).

Roughly 2.08 million people in the country remained unemployed during the January-April period, according to the report from Rep. Choo Kyung-ho of the main opposition United Future Party.


The figure was the largest since data tracking began in 2000. The report was based on raw data from Statistics Korea.

In the four-month period, about 1.05 million South Koreans lost their jobs due to staff downsizing by their employers or company financial troubles, also the largest since 2000.


The number of jobless people and those who lost jobs voluntarily was well above those during the 2008 global financial crisis.

The jump in the number of unemployed people came as Asia’s fourth-largest economy has been hit hard by the coronavirus outbreak amid a prolonged economic slowdown.


The pandemic, whose first case was confirmed in South Korea on Jan. 20, has wreaked havoc on South Korea’s exports, its main growth engine, and consumer spending.

Exports tumbled 24.3 percent on-year in April following a 0.2 percent drop in March and a 4.5 percent increase in February. Overseas shipments fell 46.3 percent on-year in the first 10 days of May.


Exports had earlier forecast to rebound from a 10 percent on-year drop in 2019 on rebounding chip prices and the easing of a Sino-U.S. trade war, but the pandemic has dashed such hopes.

Strict social distancing measures have sent private consumption into a free fall as people avoid going out and tighten their purse strings amid the coronavirus fallout.

To date, the novel coronavirus has infected more than 11,000 people in South Korea, with the death toll reaching 262.


(Inputs from KT)


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