A post office in Paju, north of Seoul, sells masks on Friday. Earlier, post offices nationwide were designated as emergency mask supply locations by the government amid the new coronavirus crisis. (Yonhap)
South Korea will provide about half of the aid it promised to China in its fight against the new coronavirus through international assistance agencies in an apparent bid to avoid disrupting supplies of medical items for its own people, a foreign ministry official said Friday.
Late last month, the Seoul government unveiled a plan to provide US$5 million worth of aid to China, including face masks, medical gloves and disinfectants, to help the country at the center of COVID-19 outbreak, which has killed about 2,800 people so far.
The plan drew criticism here as South Korea is also struggling with a fast spreading outbreak of the virus, sending people scrambling to buy masks and other protective products.
Sharp increases in demand, combined with massive hoarding by panicked people and those seeking profits, makes it hard for ordinary people to get masks and other items.
"(The aid plan) will not impact the domestic market since international organizations will procure (medical items) from overseas," the official told reporters on condition of anonymity.
Relevant discussions are reportedly under way with the U.N. Children's Fund (UNICEF) to provide the promised aid to China.
South Korea has seen a spike in the number of new coronavirus infections. As of Friday afternoon, the number approached 2,400 with deaths tied to the virus standing at 13.