January 05, 2015 12:00
The streets around the KTX Gwangmyeong Station are suffering from chronic congestion since the first IKEA store in Korea opened there on Dec. 18. Cars can take more than an hour to travel one kilometer on weekends.
Making matters worse, a Lotte Premium Outlet shop and a Costco discount store are also next to the station.
Gwangmyeong city officials are now taking steps to deal with the problem. City officials sent a notice to IKEA on Dec. 29 telling the furniture giant to come up with measures by Wednesday to ease the congestion. If it fails to comply, the city has threatened not to extend the store’s temporary operating license.
And on Dec. 30, Gwangmyeong city proposed to the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy to revise regulations to classify IKEA as a large retailer, which would require it to close two Sundays every month.
IKEA started business without preparing thoroughly for the traffic onslaught. Its parking lot holds only around 2,000 cars, which is not enough to deal with some 20,000 customers who pass through its doors each day.
Customers who cannot find on-site parking have resorted to leaving their cars on nearby roadsides, exacerbating the congestion.
However, Gwangmyeong city officials, who zealously courted IKEA, are also being criticized. City officials even traveled to IKEA headquarters in Sweden to convince the company to set up shop in the featureless satellite town.
One industry insider said, "City officials should have worked with IKEA before approving its business license, rather than blaming it after complaints from residents soared."
A Gwangmyeong city official said, "We have no choice but to enforce regulations following excessive traffic jams and also to protect traders in the area."
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