A matter of greed, or lazy politics?CHUN YOUNG-SUN
The author is the deputy industry 1 team editorof the JoongAng Ilbo.
“If duty-free shops close two Sundays a month, will foreigners or those who take overseas trips visit traditional markets?” said an industry insider about Democratic Party (DP) lawmaker Lee Dong-ju’s proposal that contains the strongest regulations among the nine revisions on the Distribution Industry Development Act submitted to the National Assembly.
DP Chairman Lee Nak-yon chose Mangwon Market in western Seoul as the first site visit after his election earlier this month to help the revision on the Distribution Act pass the legislature promptly. Rep. Lee Dong-ju accompanied him on the visit.
I thought the bill was revised based on a certain legal effect. But to my surprise, a source from Lee’s office said that the symbolic meaning should be acknowledged. The source said it would be good for workers at duty-free shops, department stores and shopping malls to take a day off altogether. He emphasized that the overworking issue in the distribution industry and the right to rest were important. He did not answer my question about what actual benefits the revision would bring to small businesses or consumers.
If the labor rights of the distribution industry employees is the real concern, the revision is wrong from the start. It should not be pursued by revising the Distribution Act. The purpose of the law is stipulated in Article One. “The purpose of this Act is to ensure the efficient promotion and balanced development of the distribution industry and establish sound trade practices in commercial transactions, thereby protecting consumers and contributing to the development of the national economy.” Lately, duty-free shop employees are taking leave because of the Covid-19 pandemic. Large offline stores are mostly struggling. The crisis was not caused by overworking but by a lack of work.
Why do politicians ignore the reality? A clue can be found from the proposer’s blog. He compares large supermarkets to a greedy man. He wrote that the wife of the greedy man owns a department store, the first child a convenient store, the second child a home shopping channel, the third child a duty-free shop, the fourth child a shopping mall and the fifth child an online shopping mall.
But rather than greedy actors, the crisis of small businesses is actually caused by a complex combination of soaring leases, labor costs, Covid-19 and the overall economic slump.
If you want to solve a problem politically, you should endure the boring process of analyzing the problem’s causes. Framing issues as a confrontation between good and evil is lazy politics, not searching for effective solutions.