Restaurants bellyache about food industry groupThree days after Kim’s restaurant opened, an official of the Korea Food Service Industry Association visited him and suggested he join the association.
“The official said that the food service industry association can inform restaurants in advance of local district offices’ sudden inspection,” Kim told the JoongAng Ilbo.
The owner hesitated because the association demands 120,000 won ($102) for registration and 15,000 won in monthly membership dues.
The official then pressured Kim to join the association by visiting his restaurant almost every day and calling him frequently.
“I joined the association because I was afraid that the association might report me to the local district office if any violation is found,” he said.
Another owner, who opened a restaurant in November last year, had a similar experience as Kim.
“After completing the hygiene education provided at a local office of the association, they started to call me every day,” the owner said. “As I kept turning his offer down, the official then scared me, saying ‘It’s all on you if any violation is found in an inspection.’ ”
Restaurant owners are complaining loudly that they are being pushed to join the association.
The food service industry association, the only guild for restaurant owners, was established in 1996 based on Article No. 59 of the Food Sanitation Law to help and provide necessary business information such as income tax reports.
However, membership to the association is not mandatory and there is no such role of informing restaurants of district offices’ sudden inspections.
The association is authorized by the government to provide hygiene education that all new restaurant openers should complete to acquire a business license.
Of the hygiene class, a restaurant owner in Mapo District, northern Seoul, said, “I killed most of the time by playing games via my smartphone.
“They gave me an armful of advertisement flyers for restaurant supply companies and interior shops after the education was over. I don’t think the quality of the education is good enough to pay 23,000 won and spend six hours.”
“We ordered the association to stop urging restaurant owners to join them when we found such cases in North Gyeongsang two years ago,” a spokesman for the Ministry of Health and Welfare told the JoongAng Ilbo.
By Han Yeong-ik [firstname.lastname@example.org]