Seoul's curb on graft sparks gifts below $61

CHEAPER GIFTS: The Bujeon market ahead of the Chuseok harvest holiday, which falls between Sept 14 and 16 this year. Retailers are thinking out of the box to roll out affordable gifts to protect revenue. PHOTO: EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY


    Sep 13, 2016

    Seoul's curb on graft sparks gifts below $61


    SOUTH Korea's second-largest national holiday is less than a week away but the mood in the retail industry this year is less upbeat than before, with consumers conscious of an impending anti-bribery law.

    Before the so-called "Kim Young-ran Law" was ruled constitutional in July, sending a box of Korean beef or dried yellow croaker fish as a gift was often a way of expressing gratitude to acquaintances during the Chuseok holiday.

    But the new anti-graft law bans gifts of over 50,000 won (S$61) to public servants, private school employees, journalists and related parties. Though it is slated to go into effect from Sept 28, many people are already wary about sending gifts.

    In response, retailers have come up with a greater variety of gift sets, providing choices that are "legally possible".

    Chuseok is one of the peak seasons at department stores and has an impact on annual sales. This year, they are promoting gifts under 50,000 won.

    Galleria Department Store is rolling out "small gift sets" between 20,000 won and 50,000 won, with items from top restaurants and bakeries.

    Patgodang, a bakery famous for red bean bread, is offering a 33,000 won set consisting of a mix of its signature baked goods at the department store.

    Byeokje Galbi, a beef restaurant chain, is promoting lunchboxes featuring its popular dishes at 39,000 won and 49,000 won at the department store.

    "We've expanded the range of gift sets under 50,000 won by 15 per cent compared with the previous year," said Park Bo Young, a manager at the department store.

    Lotte Department Store also boosted, by over 30 per cent this year, its volume of gift sets priced within the legal limit.

    It was not easy to create meat or seafood packages under 100,000 won but it came up with small beef and fish sets.

    Hyundai Department Store is offering fruit sets under 50,000 won.

    "Despite 15 per cent to 20 per cent increases in the prices of popular fruits due to an unusual heatwave this summer, we've secured a sufficient supply and are able to offer affordable gift sets," a spokesman said.