South Korea’s New Conservative Government Will Come Good on Businesses’ Lockdown Losses

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    South Korea’s incoming conservative government is promising to compensate businesses for the losses they incurred during COVID-19 lockdowns. President-elect Yoon Suk-yeols Transition Team head, Ahn Cheol-soo, announced on April 28 “a 100-day road map that aims to fully compensate the pandemic-hit small business owners,” the Seoul-based Yonhap News Agency reported. “Ahn said 5.51 million small businesses suffered an estimated 54 trillion won (US$42.4 billion) worth of damage in the past two years due to the pandemic.”

    “The exact calculation of damage is the basic of the basics,” Ahn Cheol-soo explained to journalists on Thursday. “I cannot understand why (the current government) has not done it.”

    Ahn Cheol-soo stated that the new administration of President-elect Yoon will provide relief grants for merchants and small business proprietors “based on the businesses' size and revenue losses, meaning those who suffered big damages will get larger grants. The maximum amount of the grant has been reportedly set at 6 million won [USD $4,711],” according to Yonhap.

    The news agency reported that President-elect Yoon had previously pledged to offer “6 million won each to all small businesses,” so his latest financial aid plan was lower than the one he previously announced.

    The administration of the current left-wing South Korean President Moon Jae-in was the primary reason for the stringent curfews on business hours as well as the losses of revenue that Yoon's transition team pledged to make up in April. The law, mandated by the federal government, required small businesses in South Korea, including cafes and restaurants, to shut down at 9 P.M. every night at regular intervals over the last 24 months. The law, along with restrictions on the numbers of people allowed in establishments, was extremely controversial and led to numerous protests in opposition to the curfews from small-scale businesses across the nation during the pandemic, including in January. “Protesting business owners did not accept customers after the 9 P.M. curfew but left their empty stores and neon signs ablaze with light well past midnight,” Yonhap observed on January 7, referring to the “lighting protest” in Seoul. “This is an expression of our will and wish to stay open and do business,” Cho Ji-hyun told Yonhap at the time. Cho stated that he represented “an emergency association of small business hit by COVID-19” in South Korea.

    The conservative Yoon Suk-yeols will become the president of South Korea on May 10. Yoon's transition team revealed on April 19 that they had substantially expanded Yoon's inaugural ceremony's guest list in response to South Korea's federal government's decision to eliminate almost all social distancing related to pandemic restrictions on April 18. “Some 41,000 people are expected to attend the ceremony, including political leaders [and] citizens,” Yoon's transition team told the media on April 19, when announcing that the initial ceremony committee that was overseeing the occasion “had earlier planned to invite around 10,000 people in line with earlier COVID-19 guidelines.”

    President-elect Yoon was the South Korean prosecutor general from July 2019 until March 2021 under the current South Korean President Moon Jae-in. Moon is the leader of the South Korean left-wing Democratic Party of Korea (DPK), while Yoon represents the right-wing South Korean political opposition, People Power Party (PPP).

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