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Monday, October 25, 2004

Restaurant association ready for mass action

Korea Restaurant Association (Han'guk ûmsigôp chunganghoe) has decided it's time to take the masses to the street as the businesses are getting so bad (Chosun Ilbo, via Media Daum).
The association had sent a petition (allegedly signed by 135 000 out of the membership of 440 000) to lower taxes to President's office, Ministry of finance and each party, but as there was no response, it has decided to hold a mass rally in Yeouido on November 2.

"190 restaurants are closing doors each day because of the rising material prices and lack of customers, and by the end of the year 100 000 establishments will have closed and 500 000 become jobless, but the government does not regard restaurants as an important branch of business but sees them merely as excessive consumption (kwasobi)".

The association has prepared 500 buses to get members from the provinces to attend the demonstration, and 400 big iron pots (sot) are ready for the "kettle demo", "which is already making the police nervous". The demonstration is nevertheless going to be peaceful, says the representative.
The association is also considering general strike (yes, ch'ongp'aôp) in case their demands of lower taxes for foodstuffs is not met.

• The association; is the number of members really that big? Of wage workers, a mere 11% is organized, but a membership of 440 000 looks like enormous. I'm not aware that the membership would be compulsory as in the case of hairdressers' association, for example.

The membership details as an excel table; I have no reason to doubt the figure, but what I'd like to know is what percentage of establishments are members. In the case of Gwanak-gu, the association has 3731 members as of 2004. In 2002 there were 5771 restaurant and accommodation establishments (숙박 및 음식점업) in the area according to the officials stats of the gu. That'd mean much more than half of establishments were members. But what I don't even know is whether the association membership is counted in number of establishment or number of individuals. It would look like it was establishments.
The number of members in Seoul: 86 563; the number of accommodation and restaurant establishments in Seoul in 2002: 121 801 (392,784 employed) (business establishments by type, Seoul statistics).

At the time of my research it never even occurred to my mind to talk about any formal association with the restaurant keepers I was acquainted with. Other kinds of establishment, yes, like my hairdresser associates or Mr Pak (header photo, 2nd from right), who's at the moment or at least recently was some sort of head ("there were no other candidates") of the local chapter or rice bakery association (formally Han'guk sikp'um imgagongôp hyôphoe 한국식품임가공협회).
• Collective action by people who are not usually thought of as politically active but interested in their own affairs mainly; in case the association is able to take successful collective action I'll be impressed.
They also have the nerve to demand lower taxes (albeit for foodstuffs), as if small businesses like these were the mainstay of South Korean tax base.
• It's not of course the business of the restaurant association to say that there just might be oversupply of restaurant businesses, but it's not only on economically good times that a good deal of small (or big) restaurants go out of business.

Hm, I ended up sounding too negative; I'm all for better conditions for small businesses (as visitors to my blog may know); just somewhat sceptical towards the proposed action.

(Or is this just me being negative towards a restaurant keepers' association, of which I was ignorant enough not to inquire during my research...)

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