City plans to take back streets from vendors

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City plans to take back streets from vendors

A bus stop near Ewha Womans University subway station in Seodaemun, northern Seoul, has been occupied by street vendors selling skewered chicken and tteokbokki, spicy rice cakes. People waiting for a bus squeeze through the narrow spaces between vendors or stand in the road.
“It is very uncomfortable to wait for a bus here because street vendors are literally blocking the street,” said a 26-year-old company worker.
In an effort to respond to this type of complaint and to clear the streets, the Seoul Metropolitan Government on Tuesday announced plans to get illegal street vending under control. Unlike snack booths and shoe-shine booths that the city legitimized beginning in the 1980s, street vendors are operating illegally, according to laws governing the use of roads. Currently, there are about 12,000 street vendors in the city, down from 1989 when there were 20,305, the city said.
Due to public sympathy for street vendors, local governments have rarely inspected vendors and following crackdowns, the vendors soon resume their business, according to the city. More than half of fines imposed on vendors last year were not collected, the city said.
Under a new plan, 25 district offices in the city would designate an area where street vendors could operate in uniformly designed booths, measuring 2 meters (6.5 feet) by 1.5 meters, starting as early as October. The vendors would open for business after 4 p.m. and sell items approved by a committee made up of interested parties, including vendors, customers and government officials.
After a trial run, the city government said it would expand the system to the entire city in 2008. City ordinances will be enacted to regulate street vendors after 2009, the city said.
The district offices will pay special attention to vendors that crowd the streets near subway stations and bus and taxi stops, the city said. For vendors who want to change their occupation, the city said it will offer free vocational training and loans of up to 50 million won ($53,130) to start a new business.
“It is too early to control street vendors through registration systems similar to the ones that other countries have adopted. The basic principle for reform is to at least keep the number of vendors from increasing,” said Bang Tae-won, director of the city’s construction department.
Street vendors were unhappy with the plan. About 60 members of the Korean Street Vendors’ Confederation held a rally in front of City Hall yesterday, asserting that the city government’s policies were aimed at massive regulation.
“The city government never discussed the plans with street vendors before they were announced. Unless all street vendors are able to find other, stable jobs, the issue regarding street vendors will never be solved,” Jo Deok-hwi, an official of the confederation, said at a press conference yesterday.
“We have our own [proposed] size and location for street vendors and are willing to negotiate and cooperate with the city government to reduce inconvenience to passers-by,” said Cho Seong-hwa, a publicity official for the confederation.

By Kim Soe-jung Staff Writer []

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