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Korean Semiconductor Plants on High Alert as COVID-19 Spreads
All-out to Avoid Plant Shutdowns
Korean Semiconductor Plants on High Alert as COVID-19 Spreads
  • By Kim Eun-jin
  • February 27, 2020, 11:50
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A workplace shutdown due to employee infections can cause astronomical damage to semiconductor companies.

Korean semiconductor companies are on high alert as COVID-19 spreads. As a workplace shutdown due to employee infections can cause astronomical damage, they are extremely vigilant and stepping up quarantine activities.

Samsung Electronics and SK Hynix have drastically strengthened their preventive measures as the Korean government raised the threat alert to the highest level.

Korean semiconductor companies still do not have any workers infected with the COVID-19 virus in their production facilities, so no facilities have been locked down and no disruptions have occurred to their plant operations. However, company officials say that hundreds of employees are placed in self-quarantine as they are suspected of contracting the virus. Non-semiconductor worksites were locked down temporarily as some of their employees were confirmed to carry the virus.

Samsung Electronics has DRAM and NAND flash production and foundry facilities in Giheung, Hwaseong and Pyeongtaek, all located in Gyeonggi Province in Korea, and has worksites for post-processing operations such as product testing and packaging in Asan, South Chungcheong Province. The company’s DS Business Division, which is in charge of the semiconductor business, has more than 54,000 employees on its payroll.

SK Hynix has plants in Icheon, Gyeonggi Province, and Cheongju, North Chungcheong Province, which produce DRAMs, NAND flashes, and image sensors. The number of employees at these sites is about 28,000.

Due to the nature of the semiconductor production process, production facilities run 24/7. If a production line goes down for an unexpected reason, the chipmaker suffers huge losses. Some analysts say that if a semiconductor plant is shut down for one day only, its damage would run to about two trillion won.

However, industry officials say that semiconductor facilities generally operate production facilities in clean rooms inside fabs and employees are always wearing dust-proof clothing, so even if a virus was found among employees, there is little possibility of downtime taking place at the plant. “Most of the clean room facilities inside fabs are automated, and most of the employees work apart with one another, wearing dustproof clothing,” an industry official said. “So they have little possibility of contracting the virus.”

However, they did not rule out a possibility where production volume decreases due to a shortage of manpower or a disruption in supply of materials and equipment through partner companies as more employees are quarantined due to virus infection concerns.