SEOUL — As Korea celebrated the 70th anniversary of liberation from Japanese colonial rule this weekend, McDonald’s launched an aggressive campaign to promote its drive-through service by offering free burgers and coffee.
Some Koreans, however, found the American fast-food chain’s free food campaign extremely offensive.
“Their ads remind me of Yankees throwing candy to malnourished Korean kids when our country was dirt poor,” Kim Chun-sam, a mechanic living in Shinwol, Seoul, said as he pointed to McDonald’s banners illegally hung on flag poles and blocking the bicycle path.
“Really stupid. They hung a banner on a spot where our national flag, Taegeukki, should be placed. Are they dumb or simply don’t care about local regulations? Look right above the illegal ad is a sign that reads Police Enforcement.”
Another Seoul resident, Choi Ji-eun, also expressed her concerns over what she described as McDonald’s “shameless campaign” of its drive-through.
“McDonald’s is the world’s largest restaurant chain, right? So does it mean that they don’t need to respect local culture and do whatever they want here?” she asked, noting that McDonald’s has been accused of abusing young Korean workers.
“Is McDonald’s Korea’s boss a foreigner or clueless about Independence Day?”
Though the law is hardly enforced, posting ads on street poles is illegal and violators may face a fine of up to 5 million won.
McDonald’s Korea is currently led by managing director Joe Erlinger who is American recently named as the fast-food giant’s chief financial officer (CFO) for “eight high-growth markets,” including Italy, Switzerland, the Netherlands, Spain, Russia, Poland, China and Korea.
Erlinger has been on hot seat faced with mounting criticism over McDonald’s Korea’s alleged abuse of workers’ rights.
A recent survey of 500 McDonald’s part-time workers in Korea reveals that only 48 percent of them had a copy of an employment contract.
The Part-Time Workers Union (PTWU) in Korea also claims that 65 percent of McDonald’s workers suffer from arbitrary schedules adjustments and 22 percent of them have experienced delays of their paychecks.
On average, McDonald’s employees receive 6,451 won ($5.5) an hour in Korea last year, about 400 won higher than the current minimum wage of 6,030 won, according to a poll by Albamon.