|Hundreds of thousands of face masks are displayed at the Korea Customs Service's office at Incheon. Customs officials have scuttled attempts to illegally ship out 730,000 face masks over the past week. Yonhap|
Customs authorities have scuttled attempts to illegally ship out about 730,000 face masks over the past week, the government said Thursday, stepping up its efforts to ease the supply shortage of masks caused by the spread of the new coronavirus.
The Korea Customs Service (KCS) said it intercepted exports of 100,000 masks in 62 cases and put 630,000 masks in 10 shipments under an investigation during its intensive crackdown from last Thursday to Wednesday.
The 730,000 masks detected by the KCS are worth about 1.4 billion won (US$1.18 million).
South Korea last Wednesday announced tougher penalties for the hoarding of protective masks and hand sanitizer after the coronavirus outbreak sparked a sharp rise in demand. Hoarders of such products can face a prison sentence of up to two years or a maximum fine of 50 million won.
Under the toughened regulations, shipments of more than 300 masks and fewer than 1,000 masks are subject to simplified export declaration, while a formal export declaration is required for shipments of more than 1,000 masks.
Most offenders caught in the KCS crackdowns are Chinese nationals, the agency noted.
A Chinese national was caught attempting to take 2,285 masks out of the country without reporting them while departing from Incheon International Airport, west of Seoul, to Shanghai. The suspect had reportedly bought the face masks from drug stores in central Seoul.
In a similar case, a Chinese citizen is accused of submitting a false simplified export declaration for 1,050 masks prior to his departure for Qingdao from the Incheon airport.
Another Chinese national was caught changing packing boxes to disguise 10,000 masks as different products.
South Korean offenders were also busted in the crackdown.
A Korean national was caught attempting to ship out 490,000 masks after declaring a shipment of 110,000 masks, while another Korean was found to have underreported his mask shipment from 24,405 units to 900 units.
The KCS said all the masks detected in its crackdowns will be seized through legal procedures before being put up for public sale or scrapped. (Yonhap)