By KIM TONG-HYUNG
SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — South Korea has begun to allow larger social gatherings and lifted business-hour restrictions on restaurants in what officials described as the first step toward attempting to restore some pre-pandemic normalcy. The capital area has been under the country’s strongest social distancing measures short of a lockdown since July. Under the changes starting Monday, the limit on private social gatherings in the capital, Seoul, and nearby metropolitan areas was raised to 10 people and 12 in other regions, regardless of whether participants are fully vaccinated or not. Restaurants and coffee shops are now allowed to open for 24 hours, rather than being forced to close earlier. South Korea is dealing with a delta-driven wave of new infections.