SEOUL, Feb. 10 (Yonhap)—The government said Tuesday that it will take steps to enhance the rights of tenants and small business owners facing eviction to prevent a recurrence of the tragic Yongsan fire that claimed six lives last month.
The Cabinet, chaired by the prime minister, said that in the future, people who have rented shops in buildings that are later slated for destruction as part of an urban development project will be given first choice when purchasing new shops. Policymakers also said compensation for business closures affecting the livelihood of these people will be extended to four months from three, as stipulated at present.
For residents who have rented homes in such regions, Seoul will take steps to find new homes before redevelopment commences in earnest, with every effort made to construct a sufficient number of rental homes.
Existing rules on redevelopment have generally been focused on protecting the rights of the owners of homes and shops, but have drawn fire for not meeting the needs of tenants.
Tenants have sometimes protested redevelopment efforts, demanding just compensation and squatting in buildings, resulting in violent clashes with both developers and police.
Government policymakers, in addition, said that a special conflict resolution committee will be set up in neighborhoods slated for redevelopment to work out differences and preempt clashes.
The committee will be made up of property owners, tenants, developers, regional government officials, scholars and civic group activists.
In the long run, the government is contemplating measures that will ask property owners to help foot the bill for compensation given to tenants, with efforts to build homes for low-income households being pursued.
The latest measures following the Jan. 19 tragedy come a day after state prosecutors concluded their probe that found the squatters at the building in Yongsan ward were primarily responsible for the deadly fire. Investigators said protestors may have accidentally ignited paint thinner used to make fire bombs when police tried to forcefully evict tenants and members of civic groups.
Prosecutors indicted 20 protestors at the site for causing the fire and deaths while exonerating the police of any wrongdoing, despite accusations that law enforcement had been too eager to clamp down instead of trying to engage in talks.