'Kids cafe' owners gawk at gov't plan to poach on turf

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'Kids cafe' owners gawk at gov't plan to poach on turf

Business owners of "kids cafes," otherwise known as indoor playgrounds, are protesting against Seoul city's plan to establish public kids cafes.
 
According to Seoul city office on Monday, a petition against Mayor Oh Se-hoon's plan to build state-run kids cafes was posted on the city’s website.
 
Written by an owner of a kids cafe in Seoul, the post was pinned as one of the most popular posts of the month, recording 129 likes and 416 views within one week.
 
The post read, “Making public kids cafes may be a good policy, but it puts thousands of kids cafe business owners in Seoul at stake of losing their means of livelihood.”
 
The writer also added, “This is devastating news to kids cafe business owners who are already struggling with huge drops in income due to Covid-19.”
 
Mayor Oh announced last week that Seoul will launch a project called “Seoul City’s Safe Kids Cafe,” which plans to build over 100 public kids cafes in Seoul within five years.
 
The city government said that it will direct up to 1 billion won ($856,000) to all 25 districts in Seoul to erect new facilities and remodel old spaces.
 
The city will begin the project with two trial runs in Dobong District, northern Seoul, and Dongjak District, southern Seoul, before launching the project in full scale next year.
 
Oh’s plan is centered around creating a safe and affordable play space for the city’s children who are exposed to high levels of fine dust, which can lead to various health issues commonly shown as coughing and difficulty breathing.
 
In contrast to the business owners, the city’s residents welcomed Oh’s announcement to build public kids cafes.
 
“Kids cafes are often expensive and very crowded,” said Kim Ye-sol, 31. “As a mother of two who needs a place to let her kids run free and burn off some of their energy, an affordable, public kids cafe is great news.”
 
The public kids cafes will charge 3,000 won ($3) for every two hours, according to Seoul city office. Existing locations currently charge an average of 15,000 won for every two hours.
 
In consideration of the growing protests over the city’s kids cafes by business owners, city officials said that they will revise the plan to decrease the number of new public facilities.
 
Officials also said that the city office will find means for both private and public kids cafes to sustainably coexist.
 
Mun Jin-yeong, professor of social welfare policies at Seogang University, said during a call with the JoongAng Ilbo that Seoul’s plan for the new business was bound to create opposition by the existing owners of kids cafes.
 
“Since kids cafes are not traditionally a business that the government takes part in, the protests by the private business owners was inevitable,” said Mun.  
 
She also added that “while the city government seems to have planned the business under a good cause, it must closely monitor the program to be available to the general public with affordable costs and reachable distances.”
 

BY PARK SA-RA, LEE JIAN [lee.jian@joonang.co.kr]
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