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Restaurant that charged soldiers extra goes out of business

By Yoon Min-sik

Published : March 26, 2024 - 14:27

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This uncredited photo shows a menu at a restaurant formerly operating in Yeoju, Gyeonggi Province. The prices on the menu indicate that soldiers will be charged 3,000 won more than other adults. This uncredited photo shows a menu at a restaurant formerly operating in Yeoju, Gyeonggi Province. The prices on the menu indicate that soldiers will be charged 3,000 won more than other adults.

A local barbecue joint that stirred up controversy by charging soldiers extra has been confirmed Tuesday to have closed down.

The restaurant, formerly based in Yeoju, Gyeonggi Province, ceased business operations as of Jan. 2, according to BizNo.net, a website providing information for enterprises across the country.

The all-you-can-eat barbecue joint sparked public outrage in December after it was revealed that it charges different fees to soldiers and other adult customers. The price per adult was listed as 16,900 won ($12.6), but the price for enlisted soldiers was 19,900 won per person.

In response to the controversy, the owner of the restaurant told local media that the price hike only for soldiers was necessary because they eat a lot more. "Soldiers from barracks 10 kilometers away would come in packs and each eat five times the amount of (a regular person). There was no other choice because we just weren't making a profit," the owner was quoted as saying.

Many of those who criticized the restaurant said that the owner should not have discriminated against the soldiers, the majority of whom are conscripted. South Korean law mandates that all able-bodied men must serve in the military for at least 18 months to maintain the nation's 480,000 troops.

The exact reasons for the eatery shutting down have not been made public.

There have been several reports in recent years of restaurant owners giving extra food to soldiers in appreciation of their service. In February, one conscripted soldier posted on the military's promotional page that an owner of a restaurant near Hwajeong Station in Gyeonggi Province gave him and his colleagues an extra dish of pork.

The South Korean government provides some compensation for conscripted soldiers' service period, such as reducing the number of years they have to be enrolled in the National Pension Service to receive benefits. It is currently mulling expanding compensation, such as requiring state-run organizations to give advantages to former drafted servicemen in the form of promotions or increased salaries.