South Korea`s Finance Minister Kim Dong-yeon
The South Korean government will go back to square one in its policy on licensing duty-free business amid growing criticism that the current system lacks transparency.
“Recently, I was briefed on the interim report of the plan to improve (the duty-free licensing system) but the changes weren’t enough to address the questions about the system,” said Finance Minister Kim Dong-yeon on Tuesday. “We will go back to square one and reexamine the overall revision plan.”
Kim’s comments were made in a meeting with local duty-free store operators at Incheon International Airport.
As part of efforts to discuss overall plans to improve the current duty-free licensing scheme, the government has decided to form a private commission or task force that does not include government officials as members.
The government, however, will come up with a temporary revised licensing scheme to apply when choosing a new operator for Lotte Duty Free Coex in Samseong-dong, southern Seoul, whose license expires in December. The government plans to introduce the temporary scheme at the end of September for application for review of bidders in October.
The move comes as there has been controversy over a delay in choosing a new duty free store operator given that only four months is left until the current license held by Lotte Duty Free expires. Normally, a tender notice is made six months ahead of the expiry date.
The temporary revision plan, which will be announced at the end of September, will include short-term measures such as revealing the list of examiners. It will take more time for the government to introduce fundamental measures such as changing the current licensing system to declaration or registration systems or extending the current five-year duty-free store licensing period, which will be discussed by the private task force.
The government has also decided to put off the opening of three duty free stores as late as possible as requested by Shinsegae DF, Hyundai Department Store, and Top City Corp. amid significant fall in Chinese tourists after the deployment of U.S. Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system.
By Chun Jung-hong and Kim Se-woong
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