A revised bill to put limits on operations of large supermarkets passed the plenary session of the National Assembly on Tuesday.
Under the ruling named the Retail Industry Development Act, aimed at protecting mom and pop shops, chains of large supermarkets, including E-Mart, Lotte Mart and Homeplus, have to stop their operations between midnight and 10 a.m.
The ruling also forces supermarket chains to close their shops two days a month, including a Sunday. It is the first bill to limit operations of supermarket chains in Korea.
The conflict between large supermarkets, mostly owned by retail giants, and small shops on the streets or traditional markets escalated last year amid worsening polarization between the two parties. The issue turned into a political issue ahead of the presidential campaign on Dec. 19. The top two candidates pledged to put a grip on large supermarket chains to save small shops.
The passed bill relieved retail giants as it is less strict in terms of operating hours compared with the proposal by the main opposition Democratic United Party. The DUP’s bill proposed chains of super-markets to close from 10 p.m. to 6.a.m. From 10 p.m. to midnight is a peak time for grocery shoppers.
The bill also puts a different rule on days for monthly operations of supermarket chains. The DUP proposal would have forced retailers to close their supermarket chains up to three days a month, while the passed bill rules two days off, including a Sunday.
Representatives from small shops were not reachable on a national holiday.
It takes five or six months to see the bill as the bill has to go through a couple of additional processes, including coordination with rules of local city governments.
Industry watchers remain positive about the launch of the bill as the new government seeking an economic democratization will not overlook the continued conflicts between the large-scaled retailers and small mon and pop shops.
By Seo Jee-yeon (firstname.lastname@example.org)