Gas stations to shut for one day to protest policy

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Gas stations to shut for one day to protest policy

More than 3,000 gas stations in Korea will shut down on Thursday to protest a government policy that requires gas station owners to report their oil trade status on a weekly basis starting next month.

The Korea Oil Station Association (KOSA), which represents about 13,000 privately owned gas stations in Korea, said yesterday that 3,029 gas stations, including 61 in Seoul, will close for the day. However, thrifty gas stations and gas stations run directly by refiners will not join the protest.

“The gas station industry is a contributor to this country as it pays more than 23 trillion won [$22 billion] in taxes annually and an additional 300 billion in card fees a year for the oil tax, and we have been enduring this for the sake of economic development,” KOSA said in a press briefing in Seoul yesterday. “But the result of this endurance is lower profitability for us and more severe market intervention from the government.”

Currently, gas station owners must report their oil trade to the Korea Petroleum Quality and Distribution Authority on a monthly basis in a bid to prevent and track fake oil products.

KOSA said that switching to a weekly report is an excessive burden on gas station operators. Making a weekly report will take owners an extra 20 to 25 hours of work compared with the monthly report and will result in additional costs, the association said.

“If the trade report changes to a weekly basis, many gas stations will face heavy fines as they will not be able to file in time and will make frequent mistakes upon deadline,” KOSA said. “As a survey from Korea Federation of SMEs shows, 44.5 percent of gas stations don’t know about the weekly reports, and the damage to small gas stations that are not able to react quickly to policy changes will be immense.”

KOSA said that it had a meeting with the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy last week to ask that it delay the policy for two years so that owners can have time to prepare, but the proposal was denied.

The association hinted that there will be additional gas station shutdowns if the government does not make a positive move, but it also promised to cancel the industrial action immediately if the government postpones the policy for two years.

However, the Energy Ministry said yesterday that the shutdown is an “illegal action” that the government will counteract thoroughly in accordance with the law. The related law says that if a gas station operator refuses to sell oil without a proper reason, the owner can be fined 100 million won or face up to three years in prison.

BY JOO KYUNG-DON [kjoo@joongang.co.kr]

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