November 24, 2022 12:22
One unintended consequence of the move of the presidential office to Yongsan is that the area has become a focal point for weekend rallies for one cause or another.
Store owners are complaining that incessant rallies and protests in front of the presidential office, which draw between 20,000 and 30,000 people at a time, are bad for business.
When the presidential office was in Cheong Wa Dae, protesters converged on Gwanghwamun and marched north towards the presidential palace, which was off-limits. But that is mainly an office district, while Yongsan is a mixture of residential and commercial areas.
There are nine apartment complexes for some 1,738 households within 500 m of the new presidential office.
One owner of a beauty shop near Samgakji subway station, who has been doing business there for 14 years, said, "Nothing has improved here since lockdown. I used to have regular customers every weekend, but now they won't drive here because of the constant protests."
"One out of two customers cancel their bookings on weekends, and the ones who come here say they won't come again."
A resident of an apartment in Samgakji plans to move elsewhere in two months because it has become difficult to go for walks and the noise has gotten intolerable. "I've been living here for six years and the neighborhood became too noisy practically overnight," he said.
Angry store owners are complaining to the police, but officers say their hands are tied.
Police are in a bind. The roads around the presidential office are not subject to a law that allows them to regulate or restrict traffic in residential areas, and while they would like to change regulations they must also recognize the public's right to demonstrate.
Police have tried to use noise regulations to crack down on the protests, but they are difficult to enforce. All police can do is issue small fines.
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