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Friday, November 05, 2004

Restaurant keepers' demonstration

Some time ago I had a note on the planned mass demonstration of the Korea Restaurant Association (Han'guk ûmsigôp chunganghoe) to attract the attention of the government for their plight and get tax reliefs and other concessions.

A restaurant that was: a chokpal (pork hock) and sundae kukpap place in Sillim-dong. (c) AL 1999
Chosun Ilbo tells that the 30 000 demonstrators (police estimate) made quite a noise on October 2 with the steel kettles (the Korean one with a wide brim[?]). It is described as a performance: 솥뫼의 외침, "cry of the kettles" (more literally "cry of the mountain of kettles"); note the use of the original Korean word for mountain, moe (뫼) which has been discarded already centuries ago for the Chinese-originating san (山), clearly a reference to a kind of "originality" that these restaurants catering Korean food are supposed to represent.

It is good to remember, as pointed out in the article, that the number of restaurants has grown considerably since the "IMF crisis" of the late 1990s as wage earners fired from their jobs invested their severance monies into small businesses, and also a lot of bank loans have gone into restaurant and accommodation businesses (음식, 숙박업) lately (in the "IMF year" 1998 207 billion won [2076억], in the first half of this year 2.6 trillion[?, 2조6218억] according to Bank of Korea). So of the restaurant surplus the example of 10 000 jjimtak chicken places opened in 01-02 is given; except for the "original brand", most are on the verge of extinction, and the "1000 won mandu" place boom of last year was cleared off by the rubbish mandu scandal (earlier post).
So in one sense it's time for some market capitalism, dear restaurant proprietors.

On left: the number of opened and closed restaurant
Right: bank loans to restaurant and accommodation businesses

A commentator paid attention to the steep rise in loans to restaurants and accommodation businesses between 2001 and 2002. The article mentions that "during the last few years the lack of appropriate object of investment has directed bank funds into restaurant businesses"; also the words of a bank representative: "companies don't take loans because of bad economy, and the insecurity of credits hinders private loans, so money goes to restaurants and accommodation businesses."

I cannot recall any direct governmental policy order to increase loans to small businesses like restaurants, but in those years the government directed a lot of attention to small businesses at the aftermath of the economic crisis, which really brought into limelight the importance (in good and bad) of this kind of livelihood.

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Comments to note "Restaurant keepers' demonstration" (Comments to posts older than 14 days are moderated)

<Blogger Jonathan Dresner> said on 10.11.04 : 

Caveat: I don't know much about Korea. But unless there's been a sudden rise in disposable income or eating-out habits, the first thing that comes to mind when I look at those numbers is money-laundering. In Japan organized crime often uses bars (they used to use real estate, but not so much any more); in the US, restaurants are very popular for 'cleansing' dirty money.

I know nothing about crime, organized or otherwise, in Korea, so this is sheer speculation....

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