Asia virus latest: Japan in recession; S. Korea 'sex doll' scandal

Singapore (AFP) –


Here are the latest developments from Asia related to the coronavirus pandemic:

- Japan slides into recession -

Japan dived into its first recession since 2015, according to official data, with the world's third-largest economy shrinking by 0.9 percent in the first quarter as it wrestles with the fallout from the coronavirus.

The drop in gross domestic product followed a 1.9 percent decline in the fourth quarter of 2019 as a tax hike and typhoons hit Japan hard -- even before the pandemic shut down much of the economy.

A recession is defined as two consecutive quarters of negative GDP growth and some analysts predicted the Japanese economy would suffer worse as the effects of the coronavirus become clearer.

- S. Korean football club sorry for 'sex doll' controversy -

One of South Korea's top football clubs apologised for causing "deep concern" after being accused of using sex dolls to fill empty seats at a weekend game.

FC Seoul insisted the mannequins -- used in the absence of fans, who are banned because of the coronavirus -- had "no connection to sex toys".

But some of the artificial spectators, deployed for Sunday's game against Gwangju FC, wore T-shirts with the logo of SoloS, a sex toy seller.

- New Zealand kids back to school -

Hundreds of thousands of New Zealand children returned to school after two months of home education as part of a COVID-19 lockdown.

Excited youngsters greeted classmates for the first time in eight weeks, while teachers reinforced messages about social distancing and hand-washing to combat the coronavirus.

- Wallaby Rodda in trio suspended for refusing Super Rugby pay cut -

Wallabies forward Izack Rodda and two Queensland Reds teammates who refused to take a pay cut negotiated during the coronavirus shutdown were suspended as the team resumed training.

The 21-cap Australia Test second row Rodda, Isaac Lucas and Harry Hockings rejected a deal that sees the country's professional rugby union players take a 60 percent pay cut over six months to help the game avoid insolvency.

- Softbank Group reports record losses on virus, WeWork woes -

Struggling Japanese conglomerate SoftBank Group reported record losses, as the coronavirus pandemic compounded woes caused by its investment in troubled office-sharing start-up WeWork.

The telecom and investment giant had already sounded the alarm, warning last month that the "deteriorating market environment" would hit its bottom line.

- Equities climb as countries slowly reopen -

Asian markets rose as a further easing of lockdowns around the world offset another round of data highlighting the sharp economic pain being inflicted by the virus.

Traders also looked past a warning from the head of the Federal Reserve that a full recovery would likely not come until next year, warning that a vaccine would be needed to get things back to normal.