South Korean duty-free operators were given permission to delay new openings for a year amid poor outlook in the business due to reduced Chinese tourists.
According to industry sources on Friday, Korea Customs Service decided to extend the opening deadline for new shops. The date has been delayed to December 2018 for Shinsegae and Top City and January 2019 for Hyundai Department Store. The stores may choose to open at an earlier date depending on their conditions.
The move comes after Deputy Prime Minister Kim Dong-yeon, during a visit to duty-free shops in Incheon International Airport last week, offered to push back the license date in consideration of the worsened tax-free shopping business conditions under soured relationship with China.
Under current rules, shops must open within a year upon obtaining business permit. The latest licenses issued in December went to six operators, including Hyundai Department Store, Shinsegae, Lotte, Top City, Busan Duty Free and Alpensia.
Lotte started operations immediately in January but the three stores to open in Seoul - Hyundai, Shinsegae and Top City - filed for an extension, citing difficult business conditions.
Korean duty-free shops received a blow as the number of big-spending Chinese tourists sharply fell following Beijing’s ban on package tours to Korea in a retaliatory move against Seoul’s deployment of a U.S. anti-missile shield to counter North Korean threats. China has opposed the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system, saying that the powerful radar could be used to spy on its military.
By Sohn Il-seon
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