SEOUL, Oct. 28 (Yonhap) -- Lee Jae-myung, the presidential nominee of the ruling Democratic Party (DP), has come under fire after saying he may consider adopting a cap on the number of restaurants in the country to curb excessive competition.
Lee made the remarks Wednesday during his campaigning at a traditional market in Seoul where he listened to self-employed people suffering from the pandemic. He said the competition in the restaurant business is like "an ant lion pit," and that he has an idea of running a quota system to limit the number of restaurants.
"A quota system is not a bad thing," Lee said. "Opening restaurants indiscriminately and going out of business is not a freedom. We need good regulation."
The former Gyeonggi governor's remarks drew heavy criticism from the main opposition People Power Party (PPP), saying his restaurant quota scheme will threaten free market principles and the country's economic system.
"It is a policy that ignores the foundation of economics," PPP Chairman Lee Jun-seok said at his party's meeting Thursday.
Presidential hopefuls from the PPP also slammed Lee over his restaurant quota idea, with Yoon Seok-youl saying it is "totalitarian," while Hong Joon-pyo lashed out at it as being "unconstitutional."
Lee took a step back from his controversial remarks Thursday, saying he just wanted to emphasize a need to review the quota system and he did not mean he will adopt the system as a state policy and enforce it.
"I do not have exact figures, but thousands of restaurants close yearly and cause problems, so I had briefly thought about it when I was the mayor of Seongnam," he told reporters at a robot exhibition event in Goyang, northwest of Seoul. "We must not allow negligence that causes risks under the name of freedom."