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Automobiles

Kia suspends Seoul factory after COVID-19 outbreak

10 cases linked to plants that account for 10% of automaker's output

Kia's Sohari Factory outside of Seoul produces 320,000 vehicles per year, accounting for 10% of the company's total production.   © EPA/Jiji

SEOUL -- Kia Motors suspended operations at its Sohari Factory near Seoul on Thursday after 10 COVID-19 cases were confirmed among the automaker's employees and their family members.

South Korea's second-largest automaker said that the company has stopped production in the two plants located in Gwangmyeong, southwest of Seoul. Sohari, which employs 5,800 workers, produces 320,000 units per year, accounting for 10% of Kia's total production. Its lineups include the Rio subcompact sedan, the K9 premium sedan and the Carnival minivan.

"We stopped the production following the health authorities' confirmation of the COVID-19 cases," a Kia spokesperson said. "We are now disinfecting the factories. We will decide when to reopen the factories later."

The suspension comes as South Korea had been doing relatively well against the coronavirus, despite a slight rise in cases recently. The country confirmed 153 new infections on Thursday, up from 113 a day ago. Its total infections reached 22,657 with 372 deaths.

Kia's global sales dropped 5.2% to 217,000 units in August year-on-year, with its domestic sales falling 11.3% to 38,000 units. Kia runs six factories globally, with three of them in South Korea.

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