Possible four-day weekend next week doesn’t delight all

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Possible four-day weekend next week doesn’t delight all

The sudden possibility that 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-sized 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 and Industry requested the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism on Monday to designate May 6 as a temporary holiday, and President Park Geun-hye said Tuesday 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 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 about the news.

“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 into 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 department head of public relations department at Emart. “We are also thinking about expanding the merchandise planned for Children’s Day and Parents’ Day.”

But the news is not welcome to some.

“My husband and I both work at small and medium-sized 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 daycare center closes on holidays.”

Ministry of Health and Welfare called on daycare 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 daycare 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 and Industry believes the temporary holiday will lift the domestic economy. According to research institutes, a temporary holiday on August 18 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.”

Some critics say temporary holidays only benefit certain sectors of society.

“I don’t understand how [the government] intends to get people to open their wallets with a temporary holiday,” said a 25-year-old employee of a small and medium-sized business. “At my company, people need to work over the weekends normally, not to mention on holidays. And many work without overtime.”

Temporary or not, holidays are irrelevant to people studying for exams.

“I will be studying anyway,” said a 24-year-old woman surnamed Yoo who is preparing for a civil service exam. “With a TOEIC test scheduled next week, any talk of a temporary holiday only bogs me down.”

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