Grief suffocates businesses in Itaewon 3 months after tragedy

4 days ago Korea JoongAng Daily

Grief suffocates businesses in Itaewon 3 months after tragedyThe once bustling alleys of Itaewon in central Seoul were all but deserted Monday, the third day of Korea’s four-day Lunar New Year holiday.Many restaurants and pubs were open, but customers were few.“I was surprised to see how there were so few people in Itaewon on a holiday night,” said Lee Seon-ah, who visited a restaurant in Itaewon with her friend.“There was only my friend and me dining at a restaurant that used to be very popular on social media pages.“It was really hard to see Itaewon as a downtown area on the night.”The scene in Itaewon, with only a few strolling in the alleys and looking at messages of mourning posted on walls, was similar to what a Korea JoongAng Daily reporter found in the area on a recent Saturday night.Staffers of pubs and restaurants stood out in the cold encouraging the occasional passerby to come in.It’s been almost three months since the crowd crush on Oct. 29 took the lives of 158 people, and that of a teen survivor who committed suicide shortly after.People clearly don't feel comfortable going back to the area to party, and the pain is only deepening for business owners in Itaewon.Reminders of the tragedy remain in the short alley where the deaths occurred.Messages of mourning to the victims are posted on one wall of the alley adjacent to the Hamilton Hotel.A policeman walks up and down the narrow alley, as if there might be some kind of trouble ahead.More messages of mourning are on a wall leading to Itaewon Station’s Exit. 1.In the so-called Three Alleys area where the tragedy took place, posters offer discount promotions to revive business in the area.A poster headlined “I love Itaewon” advertises 30 percent discounts at some restaurants, pubs and cafe, which are sponsored by the Itaewon Special Tourist Zone Organization.But the customers have yet to come.“We sold less than 50 percent of what we did in the past week despite having this promotion yesterday,” said Byeon Jong-kook, a Korean restaurant owner in Itaewon.Byeon has been running the restaurant for ten years.“If this continues, I feel like nobody will be able to survive.”According to Byeon, business is worse than during the Covid-19 pandemic.“When the pandemic arrived, every place in the country was affected,” he said.“But now, people who came to Itaewon on weekends are hanging out in places like Apgujeong in southern Seoul.”In the second week of last November, right after the tragedy, the number of people who went to Itaewon dropped to around 70 percent of the week before the tragedy. The coupons are sold at a 10 percent discount, and can be used at around 2,600 businesses in Itaewon.Discounts may not be enough.“People will not be willing to visit Itaewon and hang out as long as there are still some scenes reminding them of the tragic crowd crush,” said Lee Eun-hee, a consumer science professor at Inha University.“I personally believe there will be a way to commemorate those who died in the incident in a sincerer and warmer way, such as by building a memorial park.”“Some creative efforts by the district office are needed to revive businesses and to encourage people to visit Itaewon and its neighborhood for happy purposes.”A joint memorial altar for the crowd crush victims, set up by a civic group formed by the bereaved family, is located at Noksapyeong Station, around 12 minutes away from the alley where the tragedy occurred.Dozens of police stand in front of the memorial altar, while members of the civic group stand next to them in the cold.Facing photos of the victims, members of the group hold up picket signsreading, “We ask for the truth behindthe Itaewon crowd crush.”On the Lunar New Year’s Day, which fell on Sunday this year, awas held at the memorial altar. Charye refers to a Korean traditional ancestral ritual. Around 80 people reportedly gathered at the venue to put food that the victims used to enjoy.On Jan. 13, the Korean National Police Agency wrapped up its months-long investigation of the tragedy and gave the results to prosecutors.A total of 23 people said to bear responsibility for the tragedy have been recommended for prosecution.BY CHO JUNG-WOO [[email protected]]
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Seoul returns to criticizing Pyongyang at the UN

Seoul returns to criticizing Pyongyang at the UNSeoul has returned to co-sponsoring the annual UN resolution condemning North Korean human rights violations, according to the Foreign Ministry.“Finally, a resolution on human rights in North Korea was proposed by the European Union at the Third Committee meeting of 77th session of the UN General Assembly held yesterday in New York,” Lim Soo-suk, the ministry’s spokesperson and deputy minister for public affairs, told the press on Tuesday.“The Korean government actively participated in the discussions around the text of the North Korean human rights resolution and participated as a co-sponsor of the resolution.”The Human Rights Council at the UN has annually adopted a resolution condemning Pyongyang’s human rights violation since 2003.Seoul was a co-sponsor of the resolution from 2008 to 2018, but stopped in 2019 as the liberal Moon Jae-in administration tried to engage Pyongyang and not anger it.The resolution, drafted by the European Union, has been proposed at the UN and is scheduled to be passed during the General Assembly session in December.“We continue to reject unfair attempts to politicize the human rights [situations]on the UN stage and abuse them as political tools for interfering in the internal affairs of other countries,” said the North Korean representative during the Third Committee meeting of the UN General Assembly on Monday.The text of the resolution this year is expected to be similar to previous resolutions, according to the Foreign Ministry in Seoul.“It is still a draft, so there could be adjustments made until its expected adoption in December,” a ministry official told the Korea JoongAng Daily on Monday. “We are working closely with the members of the UN on the text.”The resolution put forward last year by a number of European Union member statescondemned “in the strongest terms the long-standing and ongoing systematic, widespread and gross violations of human rights in and by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea," referring to North Korea by its full name.The resolution addressed “gross” human rights violations in the North including torture and other inhuman punishments, the existence of political prison camps, all forms of sexual and gender-based violence, abductions of North Koreans and people from other countries, severe restrictions on freedom of thought of North Koreans in online and offline spaces, as well as exploitation of workers sent abroad.“The government's position is that the North Korean human rights issue is a universal human rights issue that requires a consistent response based on principles,” Lim said.BY ESTHER CHUNG [[email protected]]

2 months ago Korea JoongAng Daily
Korean Air Lines wallops expectations as pax numbers jump

Korean Air Lines wallops expectations as pax numbers jumpKorean Air Lines beat expectations in the third quarter with a net profit of 431.4 billion won ($302.6 million), jumping 222 percent on year due to a strong recovery in passenger traffic.The figure beat analyst expectations of a 232-billion-won net profit compiled on FnGuide.The carrier reported revenue of 3.67 trillion won, up 65 percent on year. The figure slightly beat analyst expectations of a 3.66-trillion-won revenue.Sales from passenger flights in the third quarter jumped 338 percent on year to 1.45 trillion won as various countries ease travel restrictions and travelers increase.Korea Air Lines says prospects for its passenger flight business is very positive, with travel demand expected to continue rising, especially ahead of end-of-year holidays. There has been more travelers coming from the United States due to the weak won and more travelers to and from Japan due to the country resuming visa-free travel.The carrier will up frequencies to meet demand, also scheduling non-regular flights if necessary.Sales from its cargo business rose 12 percent on year to 1.86 trillion won.The carrier says growth wasn’t as fast as in previous quarters because of rising fuel costs and fewer overseas flight purchases due to inflation. Competition has also been high in the cargo transport business due to more planes flying as travel demand rises.The carrier expects cargo transport demand to fall in the fourth quarter, but said it will try to sign contracts to deliver goods for the upcoming busy shopping seasons, such as Black Friday and the Christmas holidays.BY LEE TAE-HEE [[email protected]]

2 months ago Korea JoongAng Daily
Seventy percent of university seniors have already given up on job hunt

Seventy percent of university seniors have already given up on job huntNearly 70 percent of university seniors graduating in March have given up on finding jobs, according to a survey by the Federation of Korean Industries (FKI).As more and more companies are hiring experienced workers over new recruits, job opportunities for those fresh out of university are becoming scarce.“Where can newbies build up their experience if companies only hire experienced applicants?” a 26 year-old job seeker, who had been turning in job applicants for the past two years, asked the JoongAng Ilbo, an affiliate of the Korea JoongAng Daily. “The recent job openings from companies only look for experienced workers and furthermore it’s hard to predict when the job openings are announced or how many they plan to recruit.”In the past, major companies including Samsung, Hyundai Motor and SK would announce their recruitment plans in accordance to the spring or summer graduation period.The hiring plans included the number of people that each department or business affiliates would be taking on.Today, hiring notifications have become less systematic and more sporadic.In particular, major conglomerates have changed the way they recruit employees — instead of hiring as an entire group, each department or affiliate makes its own job notification.The only company among the top five conglomerates in Korea that still practices the old hiring system is Samsung.A survey by FKI conducted on 2,469 seniors from 4-year universities found that 65.8 percent have “virtually” given up on looking for jobs.Thirty-one-point-eight percent said they still submit their applications just for the sake of it as, 26.7 percent said they hardly look for jobs and 7.3 percent said they had taken a break from looking for employment.Only 16 percent responded that they were actively looking for jobs.Nearly half said they aren’t actively engaged in job seeking largely because of a lack of skills, competence and knowledge while 38.8 percent cited lack of job opportunities.“The trend of major companies adopting a year-round recruitment has played a role in the gloomy job prospects,” said a university career support center official in Seoul.In the survey, 30 percent said the job market for new recruits is worse this year compared to last year. Only 5.3 percent said the situation is better.Sixty-six-point-three percent said they expect it to take a minimum of six months to land a job while 36.4 percent expect it to take at least a year.More than 28 percent said companies' preference in hiring experienced workers was the biggest difficulty, while 26 percent cited a lack of good jobs where the working conditions meet their expectations.Twenty-percent said they are finding it difficult to secure opportunities that would help them build their experience, including internships.Some 14 percent said that rising inflation, which is increasing the burden on their job preparation including tuition, is a major problem.Large companies like Samsung are preferred among job seekers, with 20.4 percent of respondents citing that's where they'd like to land a job, followed by slightly smaller companies that are larger than SMEs, at 19 percent.State-owned companies took third place with 17.8 percent while positions as government employees was 16.2 percent.Only 11.9 percent preferred SMEs and 7 percent startups.Last year, the No.1 job that young university graduates wanted to land were at state-owned companies.The FKI put the change down to young people wanting better compensation and more fairness for the work that they do over the job security provided by public jobs.“As companies are preferring to hire experienced workers due to the rapidly changing business environment, the extension of in-between period for universities graduates is inevitable,” said Choo Kwang-ho, the FKI's economic research division head.“Jobs in the private sector should be created by improving the hiring conditions including easing regulations and improving labor market duality [which is the inequalities stemming from the size of the businesses and job positions].”BY KO SUK-HYUN, LEE HEE-KWON [[email protected]]

3 months ago Korea JoongAng Daily
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