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Downtown Seoul Store Owners Suing Protest Leaders

Posted July. 14, 2008 08:11,   


Owners of stores in downtown Seoul are suing the organizers of anti-U.S. beef candlelight vigils for causing an abrupt drop in customers and revenue over the past two months.

About 10 store owners held their first meeting Friday with members of the Special Committee for Legal Support at a café near the Sejong Center for the Performing Arts in Seoul. They said they will seek 10 million won in compensation for emotional trauma and five million won for sales losses per person against the subsidiaries and leaders of the People`s Association for Measures against Mad Cow Disease.

“Quite a number of storekeepers want to take part in the lawsuit, so I expect that the group of plaintiffs will consist of about 100 storekeepers in the end,” said Lee Jae-gyo, a member of Lawyers with Citizens, an organization under the committee.

Through the end of last month, the storekeepers were reluctant to file the lawsuit though they opposed and campaigned against illegal rallies. A live debate broadcast on KBS July 6, however, changed their minds.

Lawyer Song Ho-chang from the civic group Lawyers for a Democratic Society said in the debate, “As far as I know, those who protested against the candlelight rallies were not storekeepers in Gwanghwamun (the main section of downtown Seoul).”

“Restaurants [in Gwanghwamun] that used to close at 10 or 11 p.m. now close before 9 p.m. That’s because their stock sells out before closing time, and the same profit that took a month to raise now takes only a day.”

But a restaurant owner said, “I had a hard time because of low sales, and when I saw the lawyer appear on television and tell such a lie, I decided to take action.”

A sushi restaurant owner also said, “Sales in May and June dropped 70 percent from the same months last year because many consumers canceled reservations due to the rallies.”

In response, Song backtracked from his words, saying, “What I said on television was not that all storekeepers in Gwanghwamun saw higher profit, but that some saw drops in incomes while others saw rises. Anyway I regret that my words were misinterpreted and made the store owners angry.”

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