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Moon urges maximum mask output

President Moon Jae-in looks around the production line of mask maker Wooil C&Tech in Pyeongtaek, Gyeonggi Province on Friday. Yonhap
President Moon Jae-in looks around the production line of mask maker Wooil C&Tech in Pyeongtaek, Gyeonggi Province on Friday. Yonhap

President Moon Jae-in on Friday urged mask producers to increase output as much as possible, and again promised the government would purchase surplus masks when demand falls, to reduce impact on the industry.

Speaking at Wooil C&Tech, a mask producer in Pyeongtaek, Gyeonggi Province, Moon said that while government measures to improve mask supplies are being rolled out, production output must be increased to address the issue fundamentally.

“The most important thing is to quickly raise production volume,” Moon said, saying that mask supply on the market remains short despite measures such as export restrictions and increased output. According to government data, Korea’s daily mask output has been raised to 11 million masks from 6.5 million previously.

Moon went on to urge the company to increase output and not hold back on hiring additional workers, as well as expanding production facilities, saying the government will take steps to minimize any adverse effects from hiring more workers and increasing output once demand for masks falls to usual levels.

“After the situation ends and demand falls, the government will buy all surplus volume until manufacturers can readjust output.”

With masks running out and some retailers hiking prices, the government has introduced a set of measures to address the issue.

Measures include the government purchasing masks from manufacturers , as well as supplying them through designated outlets and tightening exports.

The government will also enforce a system limiting the purchasing of masks distributed by the government. Under the system, an individual is limited to buying two such masks per week.

In addition, a numbered system based on the year of birth will be introduced from March 9 to control sales. Under the system, those born in years ending in one and six will be able to purchase masks only on Mondays, those with birth years ending in two and seven on Tuesday, three and eight on Wednesday, four and nine on Thursday and five and zero on Friday. Those who do not make purchases on a weekday will be allowed to buy masks on the weekend.

Those looking to purchase state-supplied masks will be required to provide valid identification, and the government plans to introduce a data processing system to prevent multiple purchases.

While the government scrambles to resolve issues surrounding the shortage of masks, some in the industry are raising concerns on government policies, and at least one mask manufacturer has announced that it will stop production.

In a statement posted on its website, mask manufacturer and dental supplies retailer eDent stated that the company is forced to halt mask production due to unfair government policies.

In the statement, the company claimed that the government has demanded the company direct 80 percent of its output to the Public Procurement Service. The company also claimed the government contract would require it to increase its output 10-fold, and cover about 50 percent of the production cost.

The Public Procurement Service refuted the claims, saying the statement made by eDent contained inaccuracies.

By Choi He-suk (