Hong Suk-chun closes two shopsEntertainer Hong Suk-chun, who owns a number of restaurants across the country, shut down two of his shops in Itaewon-dong, central Seoul, for financial reasons, according to an interview he conducted with local news outlet Edaily on Friday.
“I had to close two of the shops I run in Itaewon because of the rising rental fees and the minimum wage,” said Hong.
He previously complained about the economic hardships he faced on his Instagram.
“There are so many shops for sale these days on Gyeongnidan-gil [central Seoul],” wrote Hong. “People who had [good] ideas and passion have already left or their shops went broke, or some shops just bit the bullet because they had no choice.”
Gyeongnidan-gil is a street in the Itaewon neighborhood that is home to many trendy restaurants and cafes.
In the interview, Hong said the main hardships he faced running his business were soaring rent prices, the rising minimum wage and the neighborhood losing its unique vibe.
He blamed the minimum wage as being the biggest cause of all, saying, “When the minimum wage rises, the staff’s salaries rise, too, and so we end up paying more than the increased minimum wage.”
A solution, believes Hong, will come when people come together and understand each others’ different points of view.
“I also have a building in Gyeongnidan-gil, and so I understand both being an owner and a tenant,” said Hong. “Our interests collide, but in the long run I believe that people have to come together for the streets to thrive, and then everyone - building owners and tenants - can live.”
“The minimum wage rose so quickly, and we’ll have to figure out a way to make our businesses work,” said Hong.
Hong opened his first restaurant in Itaewon-dong in the early 2000s, and currently owns seven eateries in the neighborhood. He started his business after becoming Korea’s first openly gay celebrity. After coming out, he struggled to find work in the entertainment industry and was harshly criticized by conservative Koreans.
By Yoon So-yeon