The Seoul Metropolitan Government is going to announce a new ordinance regarding the operating hours of large grocery markets including Super Super Markets (SSM) in Korea.

According to the ordinance and revised distributive laws, those markets are required to be closed at night (from midnight to 8:00 a.m.) and any two days per month selected from Sundays and national holidays. The ordinance also states that the mayor of Seoul can limit the sale of specific items at those markets if it is adjudged that those items can damage small neighborhood markets. The ordinance will become effective immediately.

Currently in Seoul there are a total of 292 large grocery markets or SSMs that are open 365 days a year. Among them, 25 markets are open 24 hours a day.

Photo: Yonhap News

The Busan Metropolitan Government also recently announced that large grocery markets and SSMs in Busan must close on every second and fourth Sunday. Those markets are also required to be closed from midnight to 8:00 a.m.

Major cities including Seoul, Busan, and Changwon are enacting the above regulations in order to protect Korean traditional street markets and small-sized businesses. If those regulations are not followed, the markets can be charged fines up to 30 million won.

In Jeonju, Jeollabuk-do (North Jeolla Province), all SSMs including Lotte Supermarket and GS Supermarket were closed on March 11 according to the city's recent ordinance announced on March 7. Jeonju also intends to follow suit by enforcing the regulations to protect small businesses in the city.

It is expected that Korean traditional markets will welcome more customers thanks to the revised distributive laws.

In addition, traditional street markets have also introduced a cash receipt system which allows customers to record their purchases at the markets for tax refunds at the end of year. As those markets previously had not issued cash receipts and were rarely equipped for credit card payments, customers were regularly inconvenienced when shopping in those markets.

Also, shoppers can purchase Onnuri coupons for use in traditional markets. The coupons are printed by the Small and Medium Business Administration (SMBA) and the Agency for Traditional Market Administration in order to vitalize the markets. There are currently more than 1,000 stores in Korea that accept the coupons in lieu of cash.

By Jessica Seoyoung Choi Staff Writer