SEOUL, June 5 (Korea Bizwire) — Small business owners in Hong Kong have suffered from major losses due to the coronavirus pandemic coupled with last year’s pro-democracy protests.
They are about to face even more turmoil as China plans to impose a new security law on Hong Kong and the United States has threatened to deprive Hong Kong of its special status, raising the possibility that many citizens might flee.
Most South Koreans in Hong Kong, however, insist on staying on the island, saying it is still a great place to do business.
There are currently 16,000 South Koreans living in Hong Kong. The number likely exceeds 20,000 including Koreans that are citizens of the United States and Canada.
“Among them, some 10,000 people are permanent residents with voting powers. However, most of them almost never participate in political activities,” said Ryu Byeong-hun, president of the Korean Residents Association Hong Kong.
Ryu said that various measures of support from the Hong Kong government during the coronavirus outbreak have been helpful.
“South Koreans running tourism agencies, restaurants, and souvenir shops have seen a 90 percent decrease in sales, but they are surviving thanks to the support from the government,” Ryu said.
The Hong Kong government exempts 6 months’ worth of monthly rent for business tenants at public buildings, and pays for as much as 50 percent of rent for tenants using non-public buildings.
The government has complete shut down the entertainment industry, and forced restaurants to fill only half of all seats available for social distancing.
To cover losses, the government is disbursing between HK$200,000 (US$26,000) and HK$2 million (US$260,000).
“Despite political instability, the business environment remains excellent. There are no members who want to take their business to another country,” said Kang Ki-seok, chairman of the Korean Chamber of Commerce in Hong Kong.
“Hong Kong has a flexible labor market that allows for the easy acquisition of human resources, lighter restrictions and no value added tax,” Kang added.
“Investing in China through Hong Kong comes with various benefits and investment insurance, making Hong Kong an attractive place to do business.”
“No one is talking about returning home or other countries because of the current situation,” said Lim Mi-jeong, chairperson of the Korean Women’s Association of Hong Kong.
“Parents, however, are worried that the current education system in Hong Kong, designed to learn about democratic values and respect towards diversity, may be altered.”
Ashley Song (firstname.lastname@example.org)