Complaints pile up after photo studio shuts down
Thousands of mothers with newborns flocked to the Ilsan Police Precinct last week following its announcement on Tuesday that Piace, a formerly renowned photo studio specializing in baby pictures, was apparently facing imminent bankruptcy.
Since then, 2,572 complaints against the studio have been filed with the police by women desperately seeking to retrieve lost prints and refunds for deposits or fees paid in advance. Damages currently amount to about 3.1 billion won ($3 million), though authorities predict that the number of grievances could skyrocket soon, leading to 10,000 complaints and 5 billion won worth of compensation owed.
“Last week, 20 to 30 mothers rushed into our office each day, with their babies in tow, to file a complaint,” said Park Gun-hee, an officer on Ilsan Police Precinct’s economic team that is handling the case.
The mob, which continues to flood in, has been so overwhelming that it has “paralyzed” the other responsibilities of the team, Park continued.
The investigation into the photography studio is only in its beginning stages, though authorities believe the company’s heavy debt was the primary factor behind its demise.
The studio went bankrupt some time around Sept. 12, the day Piace alerted its customers through a text message that one of the company’s three branches would suspend its business.
Authorities are leaning toward the conclusion that the company is likely facing bankruptcy, quoting employees who stated the company would “sell Piace to anyone who settles this state of emergency,” according to the Ilsan Police Precinct.
The company explained the cause of the financial downturn the following day through a notice uploaded onto its official website, pointing out that the cost of relocating their Seoul branch from Cheongdam-dong to Daechi-dong in October 2013 was 1.1 billion won, which was “more than they expected.”
The main concern of the thousands of mothers who filed complaints is that they cannot receive the original prints of their baby photos or a refund for the money they paid in advance.
“I signed a 1.1 million won contract to make an unforgettable memory for my baby,” said a woman surnamed Kim, a 31-year-old mother who submitted a complaint against Piace to the Ilsan Police Precinct on Tuesday. “Who is going to compensate for all those precious moments?”
The CEO of Piace, only identified by his surname, Ji, has reportedly gone under the radar, communicating only through his company website.
Last month, he announced on the studio’s website that he would speak solely through online channels, fearful that his statements would be exaggerated or taken out of context by those he dealt with in person. “I beg you to keep your composure,” Ji wrote on Sept. 14, adding that he is “cooperating with relevant parties” to settle the case.
“If the police or media summons me, I will answer,” he said. “I will not hide or escape.”
Piace has three branches, one in Seoul, Ilsan and Songdo.
BY AHN HYO-SUNG, YOON JUNG-MIN AND LEE SUNG-EUN[firstname.lastname@example.org]