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Couples protest against ever-shifting COVID-19 distancing rules on weddings

National 16:09 September 09, 2021

SEOUL, Sept. 9 (Yonhap) -- South Korea's soon-to-be married couples are fighting against the government's COVID-19 restrictions on indoor weddings, saying that the ever-shifting rules are causing them financial and emotional damage.

On Thursday morning, a few members of an alliance, made up of approximately 6,000 people with imminent wedding plans, staged a protest in front of the government complex in Gwanghwamun, downtown Seoul.

Wearing masks and with solemn expressions, they stood in front of a few dozen funeral wreaths carrying messages like, "I can't stand it anymore! Let us get married!" and "Wedding left with mountain of debt."

All the messages deplored the government's social distancing rules limiting private gatherings and meetings, which protesters call "bureaucratic" and "ineffective."

Facing strong opposition from couples and the hospitality industry, the government actually eased the restrictions early this month to allow up to 99 guests to attend a wedding, as long as no meals are provided at the venue. The number, however, is limited to 49 guests when they are served meals.

Couples claim that changes in policy led some wedding halls providing package wedding services to demand couples pay more, as more guests are allowed to attend a wedding.

One bride, surnamed Lee, who will get married next month, said, "The wedding hall suddenly asked us to buy more thank-you gifts (from it)," referring to wedding souvenirs a married couple usually gives to their guests attending the ceremony.

"The government should do more to tackle unfair practices of wedding halls rather than just giving out orders," the 28-year-old complained.

In South Korea, couples are usually required to guarantee a certain amount of guest meals and souvenirs, instead of paying a wedding hall a rental fee, even though the number of actual guests is far smaller than the number they are asked to guarantee.

Another bride, who asked not to be named, also claimed that her wedding hall demanded the couple pay for meals for 49 people when the couple will invite the maximum 99 people without actually offering them meals.

"I was also asked to buy wedding gifts for 210 people," she said.

Protesters claimed that social distancing rules on weddings, which they said are not only inconsistent but also too stringent, cause the industry and couples to bicker amid great confusion and uncertainty.

"Because the government has been extending the rules like by two weeks, wedding halls, which have been already stretched thin, are passing the buck to their customers," she said, criticizing the government's short-sighted policy decisions that make any long-term plans impossible.

"The government should present fairer and more realistic policies, including offering vaccine incentives to wedding guests," she added.

Kim Yong-seok said he was worried if the current distancing rules will be in place until his wedding, scheduled for Oct. 9.

"I have a headache when I think about what to do if the rules on the number of wedding guests change again ... I still don't know what to do and have yet to confirm the number," the 39-year-old said.

Two members of an alliance, made up of approximately 6,000 South Koreans with imminent wedding plans, hold a protest in front of the government complex in Seoul on Sept. 9, 2021. (Yonhap)

jaeyeon.woo@yna.co.kr
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