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(LEAD) Ruling party, gov't discussing compensation for COVID-19 biz restrictions

Economy 17:09 January 13, 2021

(ATTN: UPDATES with more info in last 3 paras; ADDS photo)

SEOUL, Jan. 13 (Yonhap) -- The ruling Democratic Party (DP) and the government are discussing potential measures to financially compensate businesses ordered to suspend or cut down operations as part of COVID-19 social distancing, a senior party official said Wednesday.

The discussion between the DP and financial authorities comes as the operations of cafes, sport facilities, karaoke rooms and other businesses remain closed or restricted nationwide in the latest wave of mass coronavirus infections here.

As the state-imposed business restrictions prolong, some cafe and gym owners have filed or plan to file lawsuits against the government, seeking financial compensation.

Democratic Party Chairman Rep. Lee Nak-yon (C) speaks during a top party council meeting at the National Assembly in Seoul on Jan. 13, 2021. (Yonhap)

"Having received a related proposal from the Korea Federation of Micro Enterprise yesterday, the party is actively reviewing (measures) in favor of the proposal," Rep. Hong Ik-pyo, the DP's policy committee chief, told reporters.

"For a long time, the DP has been discussing with financial authorities the option of financially assisting businesses restricted or prohibited (under social distancing requirements)," the lawmaker noted.

The size or the methodology of the potential compensation will be announced once the review is complete, he added.

According to a report by the culture and sports ministry, sales of private gyms and other sports facilities nationwide plummeted last year under tight social distancing requirements.

The report based on a survey of 3,000 local sports facilities showed that their 2020 sales shrank by 34.1 percent from 2019.

Private fitness clubs and taekwondo gyms bore the brunt of the impact, recording an on-year sales fall of 82.7 percent and 62.8 percent, respectively, last year.

This file photo shows the warehouse of a second-hand fitness equipment dealer in Gyeonggi Province, where unsold items are stored. (Yonhap)

pbr@yna.co.kr
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