S. Korea approves restrictions on giant retailers

SEOUL (AFP) - South Korea's government approved on Tuesday a national law restricting the operating hours of large retailers in a bid to protect small stores who say they are being pushed out of business.

The law, which will start to come into effect after three months, requires warehouse-style chains to shut stores on two Sundays a month and to limit their operating hours to 10:00 am to midnight.

The Sunday closure rule has already been adopted by many city councils, including the capital Seoul, although several top retailers have fought it in the courts, claiming discrimination.

Last October, Seoul city officials cracked down on outlets of US retail giant Costco, writing up a host of minor parking and safety breaches in apparent reprisal for the company's non-adherence to Sunday closing.

Protecting small merchants and mom-and-pop stores was one of the top campaign promises of president-elect Park Geun Hye, who will take office next month after winning December's election.

Widening income gaps and a lack of controls on major conglomerates were both major issues during the election campaign.