South Korean shopping, baseball games, movies, museums hit by Mers outbreak

SEOUL (REUTERS) - South Korean high street spending fell dramatically in the first week of June as fears over an outbreak of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (Mers) kept shoppers at home, but online purchases rose, government estimates showed on Wednesday.

President Park Geun Hye postponed a US visit to supervise the handling of the outbreak, as two more people died and 13 new cases were reported, lifting the total number of patients to 108.

Department store sales in the period fell 25 per cent from an average of the first two weeks of May, the data showed. Sales at discount stores fell 7.2 per cent, but online purchases rose 3.2 per cent.

Cinema ticket sales dropped 54.9 per cent in the first week of June from the year-earlier period. Visitors to amusement parks plummeted 60.4 per cent and to baseball games, 38.7 per cent.

Museums and art galleries suffered the same fate, with drops of 81.5 per cent and 48.3 per cent, respectively.

Finance Minister Choi Kyung Hwan asked South Koreans in a briefing on Wednesday not to be excessively worried and urged consumers to continue spending money.