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Companies on pandemic alert ahead of holiday

Hyundai Motor, Hyundai Heavy Industries ask employees to refrain from visiting hometowns

(Yonhap)
(Yonhap)
As daily confirmed coronavirus cases in South Korea returned to three-digit figures ahead of the Chuseok holiday, tensions are mounting at large companies, which recall painful memories of shutting down their factories during the first wave of the pandemic early this year.

The nation’s largest automaker Hyundai Motor said it sent letters of cooperation to all of its employees at its Ulsan plant twice in an effort to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

In the letter, the carmaker asked employees not to visit their hometowns and relatives if they have a fever or respiratory symptoms, and asked them to meet only immediate family members. It also advised employees to minimize interpersonal contact and to strictly observe personal quarantines. Most of the 32,000 employees at the plant have hometowns outside of Ulsan.

Last week, there was one confirmed case of coronavirus infection at the plant, but the plant was not halted because the patient worked in the management department.

Kia Motors’ Sohari plant faced production disruptions last week due to several confirmed cases. A total of 11 employees were confirmed positive. The Sohari plant is Kia’s key plant that produces its flagship models such as Carnival, Stinger, K9 and Stonic.

The same goes for Hyundai Heavy Industries. The firm told all departments that it is a principle to refrain from visiting their hometowns, and asked them to use their personal vehicles when they inevitably move. It also asked employees not to go to work if they have any symptoms such as a fever after the Chuseok holiday, but to go to the hospital first.

Early this month, six employees of Hyundai Heavy Industries were confirmed to have COVID-19. All 2,000 employees who use the same building were inspected and operation of the plant was suspended.

Over the past two months, some employees working at LG Display’s Paju plant and beverage firm Binggrae’s Namyangju plant were confirmed to be infected with the new coronavirus as well. Binggrae shut down its plant and suspended production.

Alongside production sites, some office buildings were also closed due to confirmed cases.

At the Twin Towers in Yeouido, where major affiliates of LG Group are gathered, five employees were confirmed positive this week. The firm allowed all employees to work from home work until Friday.

As companies continued to be exposed to the risks of shutting down their office buildings in the pandemic, the managements are returning to the remote work system that had been widely in place during the first wave to protect the safety of employees.

According to the data released by the Ministry of Employment and Labor on Thursday, 48.8 percent of Korean companies were operating remotely as of July. The survey of 400 personnel managers and 878 workers at companies with more than five employees was conducted last month. Fifty-one percent of the personnel managers said they would continue to opt for telework in part even after the end of COVID-19.

By Shin Ji-hye (shinjh@heraldcorp.com)
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