The National Federation of Fisheries Cooperatives, known as Suhyup, cut power and water at the old site Monday morning as over 250 fishmongers refused to move to a new, modern building next door in Noryangjin, causing huge losses.
Three people were injured during a scuffle Monday night as the merchants blocked trucks carrying fish for auction from entering the new market building.
Suhyup has tried to shut down the decades-old semi-outdoors traditional market, which it said has serious safety issues due to its dilapidated condition. It has attempted to force the merchants to relocate to the new building that opened in March 2016 as part of a project to modernize the market.
Of the 659 shop owners, 256 have refused to move, saying the rent is too high and the new building is too cramped. Suhyup filed a lawsuit against the merchants and won.
The court issued orders to evict the merchants four times last year through October, but it did not work due to scuffles with the fishmongers and groups that support them, such as the Korea Street Vendors Confederation and the Minjung Party, who blocked the old site with vehicles.
Last week, Suhyup sent notices about the planned power and water cuts to merchants who remain in the old site. It went ahead with what it called its “ultimatum” Monday morning.
Merchants lit candles and used emergency generators to supply oxygen to fish tanks, but dead fish began to emerge from around noon Monday. Some shop owners lay down in front of the parking lot in the new building, demanding Suhyup resume water and power supplies.
Suhyup said it will allow the merchants to move into the new building by Friday. It claims that it is suffering annual losses of 10 billion won ($8.91 million) due to unpaid rent, carpark use at the old market and bad publicity.
Some of the merchants said that Suhyup should take responsibility for damage from the power and water cuts, which they said were “illegal.”
Hundreds of police were on standby outside the old market on Monday.
As the merchants’ contracts to use the old facility expired in 2016, they have been illegally occupying the site.
The two sides have had nearly 60 rounds of talks, but failed to bridge the gap.
“The monthly rent at the new place is 710,000 won -- high compared to the old market where merchants paid as low as 340,000 won, but it’s not something that will threaten their survival,” a Suhyup official said.
“We made plans to have a nearby supermarket move into the new building, to make it more convenient for the customers and attract more people, but all of them are being delayed.”
By Kim So-hyun (firstname.lastname@example.org)