Big retailers fret as revised bill looks like inevitability

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Big retailers fret as revised bill looks like inevitability

A revised version of the Distribution Industry Development Act will be taken to the National Assembly’s plenary session in a bid to strengthen a regulation on when large discount store chains can open.

Two secretaries of the Legislation and Judiciary Committee, Kwon Sung-dong of the Saenuri Party and Lee Chun-seok of the main opposition Democratic United Party, eventually agreed to the move at a meeting yesterday.

The ruling party rejected the proposal to submit the bill in the morning in consideration of the expected backlash from large retailers, who have vowed to take legal action against the sustained push to have them close their stores on two days of every month.

The party threw up roadblocks by arguing that the amendment had not passed a required 35-day period since it was handed down from the Standing Committee, before finally relenting.

The revised bill would expand from two to three the number of days super supermarkets (SSMs) must close each month. It would also force them to close for an additional four hours a day, meaning they would not be open from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. instead of from 8 a.m. to midnight.

The strengthened regulation aims to protect mom-and-pop stores and traditional markets, which have been suffering from sluggish sales and pointing finger at the aggressive expansion of large retailers, among other reasons.

The retailers are furious at the progress being made by the amendment, denouncing it as a populist policy ahead of the Dec. 19 presidential election that grates with the principles of a market economy.

The Korea Chainstores Association (KOCA) has threatened to pursue legal action if it is passed at the plenary session.

Thousands of suppliers of large discount store chains and SSMs, such as farmers, fishermen and small and medium businesses, said they plan to hold protest rallies in front of Seoul Station today.

By Kim Jung-yoon [kjy@joongang.co.kr]

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