Drowning in debt, South Korean businesses revolt over COVID rules – Al Jazeera English

Incheon, South Korea – A few days before the end of 2021, Shin uploaded a video on YouTube. The owner of a pub in the city of Uijeongbu, on the northern edge of Seoul, had a bold idea for New Year’s Eve.

“On this December 31, I am going to livestream my pub doing business as usual from 9pm until 5am,” he said in the video.

“Which means that I am going to defy the government restriction.”

In mid-December, the South Korean government reimposed a business curfew as COVID-19 cases surged to record highs across the country. Restaurants and bars must close after 9pm. Violators face fines or the suspension of their business.

Although South Korea has avoided the sweeping business closures and stay-at-home orders seen in other countries during the pandemic, the restrictions on business hours have hit small businesses hard.

Shin, who asked to only be identified by his last name, was not the first to announce his intention to defy the curfew.

A café chain stirred controversy when it announced days earlier that it would defy the rules, citing the financial hardship inflicted by a previous months-long curfew introduced in July.

Shin told Al Jazeera he felt inspired when he heard the news.

“What they did set my heart ablaze,” he said. “And I wanted to do the same for other business owners.”

Shin, who co-owns about a dozen hospitality venues in Uijeongbu and the nearby coastal city of Incheon, said his businesses had racked up about 1.3 billion won ($1.1m) in losses during the past two years.

“I, for one, have about 600 million in debt, counting only that incurred by the restriction alone,” he said.

Gyms have been among the businesses hardest hit by South Korea’s pandemic restrictions [File: Jeon Heon-Kyun/ EPA-EFA]

Bars and restaurants aren’t the only businesses to have suffered. Indoor sports facilities such as the gym Oh Sung-young runs in Pocheon, a city northeast of Seoul, have been among the biggest losers of the government’s pandemic policies.

“I expected at least a handful of new members but none so far,” Oh told Al Jazeera, referring to business in the new year. “Only two or three membership extensions.”

Gyms are among the few businesses that have been ordered to temporarily cease operations completely, with an initial shutdown order in March 2020 followed by two more rounds of closures.

The return of the curfew, which also requires gyms to close by 9pm, has led many of Oh’s customers to suspend or cancel their membership, cutting his revenue in half.

“Adults with a regular job usually go to a gym around 8pm after work,” Oh said. “They simply don’t have time to wash themselves off after working out.”

Overall, South Korea’s economy has weathered the pandemic well compared with many of its peers, while authorities have reported fewer than 6,000 deaths.

“Among the major developed economies, [ours] has recovered to the pre-COVID level at the fastest pace,” President Moon Jae-in said in an address to the National Assembly in October. “The average growth rate of the last two years has been higher [than the G7 nations].”

‘Weak consumption’

That growth, however, has been far from uniform across industries. While conglomerates like Samsung and Hyundai achieved record exports, many smaller businesses saw revenues plummet.

While South Korea’s top 100 firms saw profits …….

Source: https://www.aljazeera.com/economy/2022/1/7/south-koreas-small-business-rage-as-covid-rules-drag-on

Incheon, South Korea – A few days before the end of 2021, Shin uploaded a video on YouTube. The owner of a pub in the city of Uijeongbu, on the northern edge of Seoul, had a bold idea for New Year’s Eve.

“On this December 31, I am going to livestream my pub doing business as usual from 9pm until 5am,” he said in the video.

“Which means that I am going to defy the government restriction.”

In mid-December, the South Korean government reimposed a business curfew as COVID-19 cases surged to record highs across the country. Restaurants and bars must close after 9pm. Violators face fines or the suspension of their business.

Although South Korea has avoide…….

Incheon, South Korea – A few days before the end of 2021, Shin uploaded a video on YouTube. The owner of a pub in the city of Uijeongbu, on the northern edge of Seoul, had a bold idea for New Year’s Eve.

“On this December 31, I am going to livestream my pub doing business as usual from 9pm until 5am,” he said in the video.

“Which means that I am going to defy the government restriction.”

In mid-December, the South Korean government reimposed a business curfew as COVID-19 cases surged to record highs across the country. Restaurants and bars must close after 9pm. Violators face fines or the suspension of their business.

Although South Korea has avoide…….

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *