The city of Gwangju in southwestern Korea recently announced plans to enact a regulation to control or restrict the expansion of chains such as E-Mart, Samsung Tesco Homeplus and Lotte Mart. The city office announced on Monday that Mayor Kang Un-tae had pledged to enact a new ordinance to protect local stores after small business owners complained that Homeplus was trying to escape scrutiny of its plans for new branches by registering them under a different company name.
“Gwangju’s gross regional domestic product is lower than that of other cities and provinces, and large discount stores opening up in the area will affect local store owners, raising more concerns,” Kang said in a meeting on Aug. 20, according to the city office. “The conglomerates and small and midsize stores must coexist.”
Gwangju does not yet have any legal restrictions on expansion by retail conglomerates, a situation Kang said he would change.
“This does not mean that we are completely shutting out conglomerates entering Gwanju,” said a city official. “We will simply be enforcing stricter standards to enter the region in order to prevent any negative side effects such as small stores struggling.”
The new regulations are expected to include the establishment of “traditional business preservation districts” within 500 meters (1,640.4 feet) to 700 meters of older markets and stores, strengthening registration standards for large discount stores exceeding 3,000 square meters in size and conducting assessments of the potential effects that each large discount store would have on the surrounding neighborhood.
The article goes on to talk about Daegu, where such changes have been made, and Daejeon, where such changes are planned.
The influence of the E-Marts, Lotte Marts, and Home Pluses notwithstanding---Gwangju has relatively few of them, compared to other cities---what's interesting is that Gwangju's shopping districts, and indeed nearly every street corner, look identical to every other one in the city and throughout the country because of the overwhelming ubiquity of franchises and chains. When I reflect on Gwangju's existing big-boxes---an E-Mart behind the bus terminal, a Lotte Mart in Sangmu, a Lotte Department Store behind the red-light district, among others---I don't find their influence anything but positive in that it gives ordinary people reason to visit those otherwise dull and nondescript neighborhoods for something other than a massage or used auto parts.