Restaurateurs to protest card rates

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Restaurateurs to protest card rates

With restaurateurs from across the country set to rally today in protest against high credit card transaction fees and tight restrictions on hiring foreign labor, their customers have been told to pack a lunch.

An estimated 100,000 restaurateurs are set to rally at Jamsil Sports Complex in southern Seoul today, which will close restaurants nationwide over the lunch hour.

According to the Korea Restaurant Association, the card transaction fees for restaurants should be lowered to 1.5 percent from the current rate of about 2.5 percent to come in line with rates charged to other businesses, such as gas stations and department stores.

Kim Hoon-seok, 41, the owner of a small restaurant in Eunpyeong District, northern Seoul, who requested anonymity, said that credit card transaction fees account for 2.7 percent of his monthly profit, which is a burden he may not be able to bear for long.

“I am currently considering whether to keep my restaurant open, but it will depend on how much of a decrease we get,” Kim said. “If the transaction fee is lowered to 1.5 percent, I can save between 100,000 won [$85] and 120,000 won a month.”

“That’s not a large amount, but it’s a lot for people like me,” he said.

Kim, who said he makes about 300,000 won a day, said he will close his restaurant for half the day until dinner time to attend the rally.

Nam Sang-man, 62, the director of the Korea Restaurant Association, said in an interview with the JoongAng Ilbo that “It’s better for the association to start a credit card business of our own,” explaining that such a move would allow the association to keep transaction fees to 1 percent.

Meanwhile, directors of the country’s major credit card companies decided in a meeting on Sunday to lower the current fee by 0.2 percent, which is far from what restaurant owners are requesting. The card companies explained that they have lowered transaction fees four times this year for small businesses and that a further decrease would give them a loss.

During the rally, the KRA said it will also make a presentation on its achievements in a campaign to reduce food waste.

“A decrease in credit card transaction fees must be implemented in order to establish a social safety net for small restaurant owners,” a KRA official said.


By Yim Seung-hye, Kim Hye-mi [sharon@joongang.co.kr]

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