(ATTN: ADDS remarks, details in paras 3-5)
SEOUL, Sept. 15 (Yonhap) -- South Korea's financial regulator said Wednesday local banks will extend loan maturity and delay interest payments again for smaller firms and merchants hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Local lenders have decided to extend the measures by another six months until March next year, Financial Services Commission Chairman Koh Seung-beom said in a meeting on small merchants.
To help support small merchants, state-run financial institutions will supply liquidity worth about 4 trillion won (US$3.4 billion), Koh said.
A fourth wave of the pandemic, which has lasted for more than two months, has dealt a heavy blow to food, tourism and retail businesses, Koh said.
Although the measures are extended, financial authorities will also come up with a plan to "orderly normalize" pandemic-era stimulus schemes, Koh said.
Since March last year, lenders have extended loan maturity for small and medium-sized enterprises and smaller shop owners by six months twice to help ease their financial burden caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Smaller merchants and self-employed people have suffered extended business slumps as the face-to-face service segments have taken a beating from the pandemic.