"I'm so scared these days, I always think every day about what else I should do while I'm working."

Park Sun-kyung, 52, who runs a convenience store in Mapo-gu, Seoul, began to tear up when she said this when asked for an interview by a reporter. What scared Park, who has been running convenience stores in Seoul and Gyeonggi Province for six years? In this story, the sorrow of the common people and the "backwardness" of the government are intertwined.

People armed with self-defense equipment

Next to the checkout counter at Park's convenience store was a heavy chunk wrapped in wooden sticks and paper. The mass wrapped in paper and tape is a brick split in half. I brought it to them as a self-defense, but I was worried that customers who visited the convenience store would be surprised when they saw them, so I wrapped them in paper and tape.

Mr. and Mrs. Zhang Mo, who run a convenience store in Incheon, recently purchased a "self-defense package." This product, which consists of a stun gun, capsaicin spray, and shield for self-defense, is quite expensive, about 20,3 won, but it is said that he bought it without hesitation. Beneath the counter hung a 'police club' given to me by a former bank guard.

But that's not all. During SBS's interview, convenience store operators and part-time workers across the country sent us photos of various kinds of self-defense items. From baseball bats to hammers, iron pipes, and even weeding knives, there were a number of items that were not suitable for broadcasting.

Most convenience store calculators are equipped with an emergency call button. If you press this button, security company personnel or police officers can be dispatched to the convenience store within 5~4 minutes. So why are people who work in convenience stores so anxious? The story goes back four years.

The beginning of anxiety... Auditor General's Audit and Department of Health and Human Services Crackdown

In April 2019, the Ministry of Health and Welfare was accused by the Auditor General of not complying with Article 4 (9) of the National Health Promotion Act.

Section 9(4) of the National Health Promotion Act (Prohibition or restriction of advertisements about tobacco) (1)
Advertisements concerning tobacco may be made only in any of the following ways:
<>. Displaying or attaching advertisements prescribed by the decree of the Ministry of Health and Welfare inside the business offices of designated retailers. However, this does not apply if the contents of the advertisement are displayed or affixed to the outside of the business office.

If tobacco advertisements are displayed or displayed outside convenience stores, tobacco advertisements cannot be made, and the law was originally intended to protect young people from smoking. However, most convenience stores have cigarette stands right behind the cash register, so you can see them from the outside. Something far from reality, the law was enacted in 2011, but it has remained unpopular for nearly a decade before suddenly the auditor pointed out.

When the Ministry of Health and Welfare began cracking down on convenience stores in July 10 after a transition period, the convenience store industry was in an uproar. Let's take a look at a part of a document that the Department of Welfare delivered to the convenience store industry.

Violation of the <Standards for Determining Illegal Advertisements in Tobacco Retailers' Offices> shall be punished with imprisonment for up to one year or a fine of up to 1 million KRW, and suspension of business for up to one year for manufacturers who advertise illegal cigarettes, and suspension of business for up to one year for retailers who do not comply with the corrective orders of the city, county, or ward mayor for illegal tobacco advertisements.

With jail time and fines, as well as business suspensions, the convenience store industry is scrambling to find ways to prevent cigarette ads from appearing outside their stores. Measures such as applying polarizing film, adjusting or removing the position of advertisements, and opaque sheet paper were discussed, but the convenience store industry, pressed for time and money, chose the simplest option of "opaque sheet paper attachment." So, starting in 2022, almost all convenience stores nationwide will put opaque sheet paper on their windows.

I said let's stop advertising cigarettes... Wacky side effects

However, when I attached this, I got a strange side effect. People who work in convenience stores, whether they're store owners or part-time workers, have similar traumas. It is the fear of 'physical and mental assault by real guests'. When I met with various convenience store owners and part-time workers for the interview, they all had memories of being frightened by strange customers in the middle of the night or actually being assaulted and injured. In the midst of this trauma, the store's windows were surrounded by opaque sheet paper, which increased my fear. This is the story of Kim Jee-woon, who works at a convenience store in Sangbong-dong, Seoul.

"When I have trouble or problems with customers, they come in and help me and ask me what's going on, but now that my eyes are blocked by these things (opaque sheets), those things become impossible, which makes me more afraid and intimidated."

In this atmosphere, on February 2, a part-time student was indiscriminately assaulted at a convenience store in Suwon, Gyeonggi-do. ▶ Six days later, on February 2, a murder took place at a convenience store in Gyeyang-gu, Incheon. ▶ ( Related article)

It was a convenience store run by a mother and son, and her son, in his 6s, was murdered while working alone at night. In addition, it was revealed that the victim was found 2 minutes after the incident. People who work in convenience stores have literally experienced the anxiety created by obscuring their vision with opaque sheets of bad memories of their past, combined with the fear of the actual murders. When this happens, each of them is buying and stocking up with a feeling of self-help.