[Editorial] Banks must return to normal business hours

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[Editorial] Banks must return to normal business hours

Koreans can do away with masks indoors from Jan. 30, the final restriction related to the virus mitigation. The rule applies to banks. Yet banks are sticking to the shortened business hours from the Covid-19 period. The Korean Financial Industry Union opposes a return to the normal business hours. The union offered to go along with closing at 4:00 p.m. instead of 3:30 p.m. but wants to stick to opening at 9:30 a.m. instead of the original 9 a.m. Employers are checking if they can normalize business hours without the consent of the labor union. It is hard to understand why returning to normal hours is a tricky matter.

Banks cut their daily business hours by an hour from July 2021 in line with the government’s toughened restriction measures. The shortened hours were to affect outlets in the capital region originally, but were expanded to the rest of the country upon the virus spread. Consumers went along with the arrangement as with other restrictions.

After the lifting of restrictions, business at restaurants, cafes, department stores, cinemas and other services sector all returned to their normal operating hours. Compared to diners and cafes, where masks must be taken off to eat and drink, bank windows cannot be regarded more dangerous to the virus spread. Why banks must stick to shorter business hours cannot be understood. The Korea National Council of Consumer Organizations demanded normalization of bank hours as shorter hours infringe on consumer rights.

The union claims that the delay in opening by half an hour should not matter since there are not many visitors at 9 a.m. But the thought has little regard for consumers. There can be consumers who wish to deal with bank affairs early in the morning.

The union must respect customer rights as much as workers’ rights. There are still many senior citizens who are unfamiliar with online banking and must visit for their banking affairs. Banks are already under fire for celebrating themselves with hefty bonuses out of their profits from the hikes in their loan rates.

Employers should feel responsible for delaying the normalization of bank operating hours. They are overly swayed by the union. As financial holding companies in Korea lack a majority owner, the chief executive and other executives indulge themselves with generous bonuses. They must deliberate whether they really respect the rights of customers. Banks owe much to the people as they had been bailed out during financial crisis times with tax funds.
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