Seoul Government Announces Reforms to Sunday Closure Policy for Large Retailers

SEOUL - The South Korean government has unveiled plans to reform several regulations impacting daily life, including the abolishment of mandatory Sunday closures for large retailers. This decision was announced in a government-public debate led by Government Policy Coordination Minister Bang Ki-seon.

According to Yonhap News Agency, which President Yoon Suk Yeol did not attend, marked the fifth in a series of sessions focused on regulatory reform. The Distribution Industry Development Act, enacted in 2012, currently requires major retailers to shut down on the second and fourth Sundays of each month, including restrictions on online deliveries during early hours. This policy was initially implemented to protect small-scale traditional markets and stores from competition with larger chains.

Critics of the existing regulation have pointed out its ineffectiveness in supporting traditional markets and its inconvenience to consumers, particularly in light of the prevalence of online shopping. Minister Bang emphasized the need for realistic adjustments to the rules governing large supermarkets, taking into account the shift towards online retail.

The proposed changes will allow retailers to choose their days of closure, likely on weekdays, and operate online deliveries without time constraints. Additionally, in efforts to reduce financial burdens on consumers, the government plans to eliminate the cap on handset subsidies. This move aims to increase competition among mobile carriers, potentially leading to more affordable prices for mobile devices.

The Mobile Device Distribution Improvement Act, introduced in 2014 to promote market transparency and curb illegal subsidies, has been criticized for limiting competition and preventing customers from accessing lower-priced handsets. The removal of subsidy restrictions is expected to benefit consumers.

Furthermore, the government seeks to support small bookstores by allowing them to offer higher discounts on books, currently capped at 15 percent. However, all these measures require legislative amendments and must be approved by the National Assembly.

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