Town Hall Meeting to Discuss the Protection of Local Businesses
Date: September 26, 2012
Venue: Multipurpose Hall, Seoul City Hall
Welcome to Seoul City Hall’s new building. I am Park Won Soon, the mayor of Seoul.
With Korean Thanksgiving Day just around the corner, I am aware that the lives of Seoul’s citizens are harder than ever; hence, I am grateful to you for inviting me to such a meaningful event. Moon Jae-in, NPAD leadership candidate; Hong Young-pyo, national assemblyman; heads of gu offices; city councilors; and distinguished guests; thank you so much for coming.
The Seoul Metropolitan Government has long been seeking various ways to protect the livelihoods of small businesses owners and merchants in traditional markets. By strictly enforcing—since last spring—a regulation that prevents hypermarkets and SSMs (“super supermarkets”) from operating on the second and fourth Sunday of every month, we were working to protect small businesses. However, due to a court decision, this regulation has been suspended, only three months since its implementation. According to a survey by the Seoul Research Institute, while the mandatory Sunday closing system was in effect, the business activities of traditional markets and small businesses increased by 47 percent. Therefore, I am highly disappointed that it has now been suspended.
In a further attempt to deal with this issue, regulations are currently being revised by each district. With the collaboration of the heads of gu offices and city councilors, I sincerely hope the mandatory closing system is resumed very soon. The Seoul Metropolitan Government is also reviewing ways to limit the items that can be sold at hypermarkets.
Other advanced countries have already pursued diverse means of protecting their local businesses. In Germany, hypermarkets are permitted to be built only on the outskirts of cities. In Japan and France, hypermarkets can be built only after first being approved by urban planning committees. As we develop follow-up measures, countless hurdles still stand in our way.
In Korea, about 30 percent of all workers nationwide are self-employed, small business owners. If these small businesses begin collapsing, how will our society endure the economic consequences? Therefore, I believe that protecting local businesses and traditional markets is an investment, not a social cost.
Protecting local businesses and traditional markets is necessary in order to achieve coexistence within our society. It is not about regulating conglomerates, especially hypermarkets and SSMs, but about finding ways for conglomerates and local businesses to coexist.
By consolidating your knowledge and wisdom, I sincerely hope every one of you finds a way to achieve coexistence.