No tofu, eggs or soju at E-Mart if Seoul gets its way

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No tofu, eggs or soju at E-Mart if Seoul gets its way

The Seoul city government said yesterday they will advise large discount chain stores and super-supermarkets (SSM) to stop selling dozens of goods as a measure to protect local merchants running smaller markets.

The Seoul Metropolitan Government said they have designated 51 goods that need to be taken off the shelves of large discount chain stores such as E-Mart and Lotte Mart as a measure to stimulate consumer consumption at traditional and smaller markets.

These are the goods that the municipal government has designated: 17 kinds of vegetables, including onions, bean sprouts and cabbage; seven kinds of seafood, including mackerel and squid, five kinds of animal products including beef feet and beef leg bones; eight kinds of dried goods including seaweed and anchovies; nine kinds of perishable foods including tofu and eggs, as well as five goods including soju, beer and trash bags.

The city government said the plan is only a recommendation for those large discount chains but doesn’t have legal binding force yet.

The government said that it will hold a public hearing in early April with officials of large discount chains, local merchants and citizens to check the feasibility of the plan before they bring it over to lawmakers.

“We will propose the Ministry of Knowledge Economy revise relevant laws and bring them over to the National Assembly to make them into official laws,” Lee Jun-hyeong, a spokesman of the city government said in a press briefing.

“We didn’t include goods such as water, ramen, popular meat like samgyeopsal, or pork belly, as they account for a large part of their revenue.”

The city government said they came up with the list after studying price competitiveness and consumers’ consumption propensity from the Korean Association of Small Business Studies. It also has conducted a survey of 500 randomly selected women in their 40s and 50s living in Seoul.

Large discount chains strongly oppose the designation. “We judge that our total revenue would decrease by about 15 percent,” a PR official of E-Mart, the largest discount chain in the country, told the Korea JoongAng Daily.

“When the city government forced large discount stores to close on weekends last year, it didn’t help those small store owners generate more revenue. It rather made people purchase more from the Internet and television home shopping networks.”

The official also added that many middle and small size companies who currently supply about 75 percent of goods being sold at large chain stores could be seriously damaged by the city government’s move.

“It would be inconvenient,” a 34-year-old Seocho, southern Seoul, resident said. “It means that we have to go to large chain stores to buy industrial products and drive to smaller markets to buy vegetables. Those stores generally don’t have parking lots.”

By Kwon Sang-soo [sakwon80@joongang.co.kr]

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