Large stores may have to close for 4 days a month

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Large stores may have to close for 4 days a month

Only a week after large discount chain stores and super super markets (SSMs) had their operations normalized on weekends, the National Assembly has proposed new bills in a second bid to limit the number of days they can open each month.

The Ministry of Knowledge Economy announced the move yesterday.

The revised bills, which if authorized could be implemented in October at the earliest, would force them to close their doors for at least four days a month and limit their operating hours to between 10 a.m. and 9 p.m.

The original legislation that was introduced in April compelled them to close for two days a month, usually on the second and fourth Sundays. This was motivated by a desire to protect traditional markets and local mom-and-pop stores, which complain that they are wilting in the larger stores’ shadow.

However, 98 percent of SSMs and large discount stores across the nation are now operating throughout the month after a series of court rulings overturned the law.

Early last week, local courts ruled in favor of the nation’s three major discount chains - E-Mart, Homeplus and Lotte Mart - being permitted to stay open on Sundays. It said local governments had adopted the ordinance recommended by the national government without holding public hearings or ticking off other required legal procedures, thus rendering the policy invalid.

Since then, there have been 10 proposals to amend the Distribution Industry Development Act, which was submitted by politicians from both the ruling Saenuri Party and the main opposition Democratic United Party at the National Assembly, the ministry said.

The government policy to curb the operations of SSMs and large discount stores will continue despite heavy opposition, the ministry said.

The renewed ordinance is expected to take effect this fall after the proposed amendments are reviewed by a parliamentary standing committee when the Assembly’s regular session opens in September, the ministry added.

As the government attempts to strengthen the regulation, the retail industry made clear its opposition, saying it is unacceptable to simply demonize the large discount chains and impose blanket regulations without reviewing the situation fairly beforehand.

“The law is likely to be tightened as ‘economic democratization’ has emerged as a major buzzword lately among the political circle, and the ruling and the opposition parties see eye to eye on the matter,” said a source from the retail industry.

By Kim Jung-yoon []

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