Saenuri Party takes on retailers

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Saenuri Party takes on retailers

The ruling Saenuri Party said yesterday it will try to ban retail giants over the next five years from opening new stores in provincial cities as part of its drive to protect small retailers and traditional marketplaces.

The party’s interim leadership announced the plan, saying the restriction will likely apply to all cities with a population of less than 300,000.

Under that rule, retail giants such as E-Mart, Homeplus and Lotte Mart will be unable to open new stores in 50 of the country’s 82 cities and all counties. The combined area accounts for about 25 percent of Korea’s population of 48 million.

“If [we] don’t provide an institutional framework, small and medium-sized retailers are all bound to shrivel up, hiring will be destroyed and welfare demands will grow,” Kim Jong-in, a member of the party leadership, told a press briefing. “There is often talk of market principles, but a market economy’s problems are not always solved by the market and require restraint for a certain amount of time.”

The move comes ahead of a new retailer regulation set to take effect next month, which will force retail giants to close their shops for one to two days each month. The law also forbids them from operating between the hours of 11 p.m. and 8 a.m.

Large retailers have protested the new regulation, saying it is likely to have little impact on small merchants while inconveniencing consumers.

The Saenuri Party said it will make exceptions to its new rule if consumer groups or retailer associations demand the new opening of a large retailer, through a referendum or a vote at the local council.

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