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McDonald’s settles dispute with elderly Koreans

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Published : 2014-01-20 18:56
Updated : 2014-01-21 09:52

(Yonhap)
The conflict between a McDonald’s in New York and Korean seniors ended after the fast food franchise offered a public apology Sunday, a local news media outlet reported.

The McDonald’s franchise owner Jack Bert promised to prevent the recurrence of such an event, saying it was inappropriate to report overstaying Korean seniors to police, according to Newsis, a news agency in Korea.

He promised to replace the manager who reported the case to police and hire a Korean to better serve Korean customers, the report said.

“I ask Korean seniors to avoid staying for long hours during the lunch time when many other customers come to eat and sit,” he was quoted as saying. He added that Korean seniors are always welcome to stay as long as they want in off-peak times.

The franchisee introduced a revised business policy that would allow customers to stay as long as one hour, up from the current 20 minutes, at the restaurant.

The elderly Koreans in New York responded positively to the fast food restaurant’s move. Their group said, “There were only a few of us, but we are sorry if we stayed far too long or acted against the business rules.”

“We don’t want the chain in our neighborhood to be in trouble. As loyal customers of McDonald’s, we will cooperate as much as we can,” the association said. 

“It is only a misunderstanding stemming from cultural and language differences, not a racial conflict. The Koreans lived nearby and just loved McDonald’s so much. Today’s incident was a stepping stone to bringing us even closer,” Rep. Ronald Kim Tae-sok of New York State was quoted as saying.

He is known to have played a role in settling the dispute by closely communicating with both sides and helping them reach an agreement.

On Jan. 16, the New York Times published an article on the growing frustration of the branch’s management over the Korean seniors who take up all the restaurant’s tables for hours, ordering only a cup of coffee and seriously affecting its business.

According to the report, the burger chain, located on the corner of Parsons and Northern Boulevard, called the police four times since last November to clear out the group, which triggered a backlash from the Korean community in New York.

The report, picked up by Korean news outlets, immediately created a stir in Korean society.

In the wake of the escalating conflict, the Korean-American Parents Association of New York announced Friday a boycott of McDonald’s for the month of February in protest of what the group called mistreatment of the community’s elderly citizens.

Korean netizens at home showed mixed reactions to the news. Some expressed their disappointment in the elderly for possibly hurting the image of Koreans, while others hit out at the disrespect McDonald’s showed to Korean seniors.

By Ock Hyun-ju, Intern reporter (laeticia.ock@hearldcorp.com)

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