Small businesses vow group action against restrictions
Small business owners hurt by social distancing restrictions say they're taking collective action to fight the government’s measures.
“We announce that we will use all means to protest [...] in solidarity with all organizations affected by Covid-19 policies that force unilateral sacrifices, and thus declare a collective action,” said the emergency response committee for self-employed people in a statement issued Tuesday.
The committee plans to protest by lighting up signs of restaurants and business establishments from 9 p.m. to midnight from Thursday until Jan. 14.
Under current social distancing rules, all restaurants, cafes and bars must close at 9 p.m., one of the worst restrictions for many of these businesses. The curfew has been extended to Jan. 16.
At 9 p.m. on the first day of the protest on Thursday, the group will hold a press conference at the Media Building in Yeongdeungpo District, western Seoul.
Along with the lighting protest, the committee will hold a rally on Friday in Yeouido in western Seoul, and address the difficulties caused by the pandemic and the government’s policies.
“We had held a rally on Dec. 22 in a peaceful manner and delivered our demands to health authorities, but measures that did not reflect any of the self-employed people’s situation have been extended by two weeks,” the committee said.
The government has offered 5 million won ($4,180) in advance compensation for losses caused by Covid-19 in the first quarter, and will conduct actual assessments of financial damage later.
The emergency committee, however, criticized that compensation as “half-baked” and only likely to benefit 550,000 people.
“No further cooperation is possible with the government’s unreasonable policy,” it said, calling for separate compensation for financial losses for general business operations and for rent, and an immediate halt to the current social distancing restrictions.
An association of small business owners affected by the Covid-19 restrictions, compromised of seven different organizations including the Korea Food Service Industry Association, plans to claim compensation for losses incurred during 16 months that were excluded when the government implemented its compensation scheme last October.
Min Sang-heon, co-representative of the association, said, “The government partially compensated for losses by creating an Act on the Protection and Support of Small Businesses, but losses suffered by self-employed people before the revision of the law were excluded from compensation.”
Another representative, Oh Ho-seok, said, “We will launch a campaign aimed at 200,000 self-employed people by the end of this month,” adding, “We will submit a class action lawsuit in February to ensure that self-employed people receive legitimate compensation for losses.”
BY SEO JI-EUN [email@example.com]