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Bandi & Luni’s, Korea’s third-most-popular bookstore, goes bankrupt

Bandi & Luni’s Lotte Star City bookstore in eastern Seoul (Bandi & Luni’s)
Bandi & Luni’s Lotte Star City bookstore in eastern Seoul (Bandi & Luni’s)
With books going digital and online buying the preferred means of purchasing books, one of the major bookstore chains in South Korea has declared bankruptcy.

The Seoul Book Center, operator of the country’s third-largest offline bookstore franchise, Bandi & Luni’s, was officially declared bankrupt as of Wednesday.

The Seoul Book Center failed to clear some 160 million won ($143,000) on Tuesday, according to the Korean Publishers Association and publishing companies.

Bandi & Luni’s said on its official website that the online services will be suspended due to “company matters.” The website’s notice said, “Starting today (Wednesday), all items on both PC and mobile services cannot be shipped.”

Established in April 1988, Bandi & Luni’s was a leading bookstore franchise operating both online and offline bookstores. The brand currently has eight brick-and-mortar stores, according to its website -- in Seoul, Gyeonggi Province, South Chungcheong Province and Daegu.

Some Bandi & Luni’s bookstores have already shut down in recent years, including its Shinsegae Centum Mall location in Busan, with financial difficulties believed to be the main cause.

The Korean Publishers Society, which consists of domestic book publishers, on Wednesday sent an official letter of emergency notice to fellow publishers concerning the Seoul Book Center’s bankruptcy.

The Korean Publishers Society and Korean Publishers Association were scheduled meet with the Seoul Book Center on Thursday to find ways to minimize damage to the publishers, while discussing plans on how to handle the inventory.

The Bandi & Luni’s bookstore chain ranks third in offline store sales, behind Kyobo and Youngpoong. It stands in sixth place when online sales are combined -- after Kyobo, Yes24, Aladdin, Interpark and Youngpoong.

But due to the decline in offline sales, the Seoul Book Center had signed a deal with Korean financial adviser eBest on March 2020 with the aim of boosting its valuation or selling off management rights.

Since the end of last year, several publishers had cut the volume of their transactions with the Seoul Book Center or suspended new transactions for fear of its financial situation worsening.

An agent at one of the major publishing companies in Korea told The Korea Herald that it was an unfortunate incident that had been foreseen, with the book market seeing a continued decline in sales over the past two decades. “I think there will be discussions among publishers and bookstores on strategies to shift towards going more online, at this point,” the agent said.

By Kim Hae-yeon (hykim@heraldcorp.com)
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