Year-end bell-ringing ceremonies canceled across country for 2nd year amid pandemic

A virtual reality view of the bell inside the Bosingak Pavilion in central Seoul, created by SK Telecom. (SKT)

A virtual reality view of the bell inside the Bosingak Pavilion in central Seoul, created by SK Telecom. (SKT)

Annual year-end bell-ringing ceremonies have been canceled across the nation for the second year in a row amid the prolonged COVID-19 pandemic, officials said Friday.

The country’s most popular bell-ringing ceremony, which used to be held on New Year’s Eve at Bosingak Pavilion in central Seoul, has been called off again, according to the Seoul city government.

Instead, a virtual bell-ringing event will be livestreamed through YouTube and Facebook, the city said.

It marks the second time the year-end celebration has been called off due to COVID-19 after the nearly 70-year-old annual event was canceled for the first time last year.

Other major municipalities across the country have also canceled their ceremonies to ring out the old year, including the cities of Suwon, Incheon, Daejeon and Gwangju.

The southern cities of Gyeongju, Busan and Daegu plan to host bell-ringing events as scheduled but with the number of participants kept to a minimum.

The country is struggling to slow down the rapid spread of COVID-19, with the daily cases hovering around 5,000 after peaking at 7,849 in mid-December.

On Friday, the government decided to extend its four-person cap on private gatherings and 9 p.m. and 10 p.m. business hour curfews for two more weeks until Jan. 16 to stem the spread of the pandemic.

To prevent possible crowds for the sunrise on New Year’s Day, access to popular sunrise spots has also been blocked, including those along the east coast of Gangneung, some 240 kilometers east of Seoul, and Seongsan Sunrise Peak on Jeju Island until around 9 a.m. Saturday morning.

The city of Gangneung and Jeju Island will instead livestream the year’s first sunrise on their respective YouTube channels to help people usher in 2022 in the safety of their homes. (Yonhap)

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