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Samsung shuts down smartphone plant in South Korea

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Samsung Electronics Co Ltd said it would ensure smooth supplies of the devices by keeping the lines operating longer than usual in the coming week. AFP

Samsung shuts down smartphone plant in South Korea

Samsung Electronics Co Ltd’ smartphone production facility in South Korea’s Gumi city in North Gyeongsang province was shut down over the weekend due to a confirmed case of the new coronavirus that causes Covid-19, industry sources said on Sunday.

The Gumi facility, 202km south of Seoul, consists of two production lines for network equipment and premium smartphones, including the latest Galaxy S20 series and the foldable Galaxy Z Flip.

A female employee in her 20s who worked on the smartphone line was diagnosed with Covid-19 on Saturday morning. Reports say she visited Daegu city on February 16.

The tech giant sent a message to all employees across the country, notifying them that the Gumi plant would be shut down until Monday morning for disinfection and other preventive measures.

Since the Gumi plant is the only facility that produces smartphones mostly for the domestic market, the temporary shutdown raises concerns about supplies of the new phones.

The first batch of pre-ordered Galaxy S20 devices is scheduled to be shipped out on Thursday. The phones’ official launch date is March 6.

The Galaxy Z Flip, the foldable device that launched to much fanfare February 14, is also manufactured in Gumi. While Samsung churns out over 90 per cent of its smartphones for overseas markets in Vietnam, some of the smartphones produced at the Gumi plant are exported to other countries.

“Delays in delivery of unlocked phones that were ordered last week seem inevitable,” said a sales manager at a Samsung retail shop.

But the company said it would ensure smooth supplies of the devices by keeping the lines operating longer than usual in the coming week.

“The shutdown was limited to the weekend, which had a limited impact on productivity,” said a Samsung official. “There won’t be any problem in supplying [phones].”

Industry insiders say the Covid-19 outbreak could have a greater impact than expected on sales.

All three mobile carriers in South Korea have cancelled offline events to promote the new Samsung smartphones. Some were replaced with online events.

Samsung has also scaled back hands-on events to promote its latest devices.

During a press conference held on February 11 after the Samsung Unpacked event in San Francisco, the company’s mobile business head, Roh Tae-moon, pledged to minimise the impact of the disease on supplies of the Galaxy S20 and Z Flip.

“So far, we can’t say we have no difficulty in terms of supply chain management.

“We will keep monitoring closely and do our best to minimise the impact on the new products,” Roh said.



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