A four-day weekend doesn’t please everyone

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A four-day weekend doesn’t please everyone

The sudden possibility that Friday, May 6, may be designated a temporary holiday is producing mixed reactions.

While government workers and employees of big companies may benefit from a four-day weekend, staff of small and medium-size businesses are unlikely to get the day off. And some self-employed business owners think their customers will all be out of town.

The Korea Chamber of Commerce & Industry requested on Monday that the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism to consider May 6 a temporary holiday, and President Park Geun-hye said Tuesday that she was “positive” about the idea.

The temporary holiday would fall on Friday, a day after Children’s Day on May 5, a national holiday.

A final decision will be made at a Cabinet meeting on Thursday, but many people consider it a done deal - and some are packing their bags.

“[With the temporary holiday], I no longer have to request a day off at my office,” said a 31-year-old securities company employee. “My husband and I will be visiting our parents after we go on our own overnight trip.”

Travel agencies are happy.

“Around 500 people made reservations for tour packages on Tuesday,” said Han Yong-soo, who works in the public relations department of Mode Tour. “That’s two to three times the normal number.

“Many customers are inquiring about packages to Southeast Asian destinations such as Bangkok, Pattaya and Cebu,” he added.

Retail and distribution industries are welcoming the possibility of a temporary holiday.

“We plan to provide packaged products and sales events for picnic goods like snacks and picnic mats,” said Kim Yoon-sub, a public relations department head at E-Mart. “We are also thinking about expanding the merchandise planned for Children’s Day and Parents’ Day.”

But the news is not welcome to all.

“My husband and I both work at small and medium-size businesses, so our kids will be at home during the holiday,” said a working mother surnamed Jang, who has a 9-year-old and 7-year-old daughter. “I am worried about my second daughter, because her day care center closes on holidays.”

The Ministry of Health and Welfare called on day care centers to make sure that teachers are available even if only one child shows up. But it doesn’t really work that way.

“Last time we had a temporary holiday, my child’s day care center pressured me not to send my kid, saying, ‘No other parents are sending their kids,’” said a 33-year-old mother surnamed Kang. “I wish the government had decided on this earlier on.”

The Korea Chamber of Commerce & Industry believes the temporary holiday will lift the domestic economy. According to research institutes, a temporary holiday on August 14 last year reaped 1.31 trillion won ($1.14 billion) in extra sales.

But the self-employed are dubious about such reports.

“With lots of holidays in February, my restaurant did not do so well,” retorted Kim Kyung-sook, who owns a restaurant in Songpa District, southeastern Seoul. “I expect there to be no customers from as early as Wednesday night next week.”

BY JUNG JONG-HOON, YUN JUNG-MIN AND CHO HAN-DAE [chung.juhee@joongang.co.kr]
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