Anchor: Owners of indoor sports facilities have filed a second suit against the South Korean government, seeking compensation for forced business shutdowns under enhanced social distancing. Controversy has been brewing over fair implementation of shutdowns with owners of gyms crying foul.
Park Jong-hong has this report.
Report: On Tuesday, a group representing indoor sports facilities said it filed another lawsuit against the government with the Seoul Western District Court, seeking compensation of five million won each for 203 owners.
This is the second lawsuit of its kind in just less than a month.
The group claims that the government's business suspension orders are unfair and require owners to make sacrifices that endanger their livelihoods.
It argued that COVID-19 cases linked to indoor sports facilities in the capital region since January 2020 accounted for only point-64 percent of total infections.
The owners urged the government to reconsider the classification of indoor sports facilities as high risk, demanding scientific evidence warranting the current measures.
Indoor sports facilities including gyms had been closed for over a month since the government upgraded the social distancing level to Two-point-Five, the second highest of the five-tier distancing scheme, in the greater Seoul area on December 8.
Last Friday, the government eased the restrictions on those facilities, allowing them to receive up to nine clients at a time as they allowed for some other indoor facilities such as private cram schools and taekwondo studios.
However, the partial entry, which was also taken in step with the nation's childcare welfare policy, is still only permissible for children or students, leaving businesses geared toward adult clients effectively closed.
Gym owners grew angrier as some winter sports venues, including ski resorts, were also allowed to operate.
In late December, the group filed a similar lawsuit against the government, seeking a combined 765 million won in compensation.
Facing continued backlash, the government has indicated it will further ease the restrictions with Health Ministry spokesperson Son Young-rae relaying its sympathy with economic concerns in a media briefing on Tuesday.
Still noting high risks such indoor facilities are posing, Son said step-by-step lifting of shutdown orders will be considered as it has only been a week since the latest wave in the COVID-19 epidemic has begun to slow down.
The government will make an official announcement on Saturday on whether it will continue or adjust current social distancing guidelines, which are set to expire on Sunday.
Park Jong-hong, KBS World Radio News.