Small Businesses Protest Against Lockdown Extension

  • By Lee Joon-woo

    February 03, 2021 12:41

    Small businesses have launched another protest as the government has extended the 9 pm. curfew for food and leisure establishments until after the Lunar New Year.

    Groups representing owners of billiard rooms, cafés, restaurants, karaoke bars and gyms said Tuesday that they will leave their lights on around the clock in protest but won't serve customers as ordered.

    In early January, owners staged a rally demanding the government let them keep their shops open as they believe they have been made to bear the brunt of economic difficulties causes by lockdown.

    The groups said the 9 p.m. curfew is a "serious violation" of their rights and in fact contributes to the spread of the virus by forcing customers to crowd into their establishments between 7 p.m. and 9 p.m.

    The lights-on protest will continue until the government allows them to remain open "at least until midnight" and offers a more tailored lockdown order that lets them have a say in drafting quarantine measures.

    A pedestrian passes by a store with a sign that says "hope to resume business" in Itaewon, Seoul on Jan. 24.

    The Korea Federation of Micro Enterprise held a press conference in front of the National Assembly in Yeouido and urged the government to come up with "special measures" to indemnify them against losses.

    At a public debate hosted by the Ministry of Health and Welfare, experts pointed out that the current lockdown "concentrates damage on small businesses, which makes it impossible to continue over the long term."

    Kim Yoon at Seoul National University cited the Oxford COVID-19 Government Response Tracker, which scores the stringency of such measures, and said, "Lockdown is excessively harsh compared to major countries."

    Despite having just 1.1 coronavirus infections for every 100,000 people, Korea's response scored 47 points out of 100 on the stringency index. That is much higher Switzerland's 42 points with 50.9 infection cases per 100,000 people, Norway's 41 points with 8.8 infections, and Japan's 33 points with 1.8 infections.

    The index counts categories like facility closures, movement restrictions and financial support.

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