By KIM TONG-HYUNG
SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — South Korea will ease some of its pandemic restrictions starting next week as officials express cautious hope the worst of its omicron outbreak has passed. The limit on private social gatherings will be raised from eight to 10 people starting Monday, while restaurants, bars and other indoor spaces can stay open an hour later, until midnight. Officials said most social distancing restrictions could be removed, except for an indoor mask mandate, if the outbreak further slows and the medical response remains stable over the next two weeks. The health minister said social distancing measures are proving less effective in stopping the more contagious omicron variant.