In this file photo from May 9, 2021, fans attend a Korea Baseball Organization regular season game between the home team LG Twins and the Hanwha Eagles at Jamsil Baseball Stadium in Seoul. (Yonhap)
The top professional baseball league on Monday announced plans to relax social distancing rules on seating arrangements at stadiums during the COVID-19 pandemic, no longer requiring fans traveling in groups to put unoccupied seats between members of their parties.
The Korea Baseball Organization (KBO) said up to four fans will be allowed to sit in a row if they're attending games as a group. The KBO said it reached the decision following consultations with national health authorities and the sports ministry.
Presently, all fans must be distanced from one another at KBO stadiums, with at least one seat between them, even if they are family members or friends. The rules have been in place since last summer when the KBO first opened up stadiums during the pandemic. The league played the early portion of the 2020 season, whose start was delayed by nearly two months, without any fans.
The KBO said individual clubs can decide when to loosen these distancing rules, but the change will only apply to open-air venues. The Kiwoom Heroes, which play out of Gocheok Sky Dome in Seoul, must continue to enforce the current set of restrictions.
Teams began the 2021 season with fans in the stands, albeit in a limited capacity. In the greater Seoul area, which is under Level 2 social distancing, stadiums may only operate at 10 percent capacity. This applies to five of the 10 clubs: Doosan Bears, LG Twins and Kiwoom Heroes in Seoul, SSG Landers in Incheon and KT Wiz in Suwon.
Elsewhere in the league, teams can allow fans at 30 percent capacity. Those clubs are the Hanwha Eagles in Daejeon, Kia Tigers in Gwangju, Samsung Lions in Daegu, Lotte Giants in Busan and NC Dinos in Changwon. (Yonhap)