Store closures fixed, but the dates flexible

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Store closures fixed, but the dates flexible

Large discount chains like E-Mart and Homeplus as well as super supermarkets (SSM) will close on two days a month this year as the National Assembly passed a revised bill on the issue Monday, the last day of 2012.

Under the revision, which is expected to go into effect as early as April, those stores are supposed to shut down twice a month, either on Sundays or public holidays. However, it will be up to local governments to decide on whether national holidays will be included. The days on which traditional markets in the neighborhood operate is expected to weigh in their decision-making.

The revision will also shorten the operating hours of discount stores and SSMs by two hours a day. Currently, they are prohibited by law from operating between midnight and 8 a.m., but their closing hours will be extended to 10 a.m.

The change comes a year after the National Assembly passed a bill that gave local governments the right to designate which two days stores must shut down each month in order to give smaller retailers more business.

“Monday’s revision is much stronger than the one made a year ago as the calls for economic democratization have grown louder,” said Yeo Sang-kyu, a lawmaker with the ruling Saenuri Party.

Reactions to the revision were predictably mixed. Jin Byung-ho, head of an association representing smaller merchants, said it will help boost sales at traditional markets. But large discount chains called it restrictive and will lead to a contraction of part-time jobs, such as for elderly people or cash-strapped homemakers.

They predict the two monthly shutdowns will slash sales at discount outlets and SSMs by around 10 percent.

By Seo Ji-eun [spring@joongang.co.kr]

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