Loss for Korean Business: The Blackout of 2003
From Joong Ang
Aug 15, 2003

Korean businesses across the New York area were hit by the largest blackout in U.S. history. Under the continuously harsh economy after 9/11, this event was the last thing they expected. Several owners were affected at different levels, depending on the duration of the power outage. The Business Owners’ Associations estimated the loss and looked for the remedies.

The fresh food delivery industry estimates their losses at above $10,000, averaged per business. Some stores even ended up with a deficit this month due to the one-day blackout. SeMok Lee, the president of the Korean Produce Association, Inc., complained, “This disaster made our tough market worse.” For instance, the wholesalers in Hunts Point, Bronx, could not deliver fruits to stores on that day, so although stores opened on the weekend, they are expected to have a shortage.

Around 2,000 of the Korean Deli-grocery stores across New York City were affected, and their losses reaches above $20 million. All the refrigerated products had to be thrown out and for at least two or three days, they suffered from a shortage of supplies. To make matters worse, many refrigerators did not work because of long hours of no power. A limited number of available repair services and time-competing reparation forced them bear whatever cost their repairing service required. KunWoo Lee, the president of the Korean Grocer’s Association of New York, explained, “Until the afternoon after the day of blackout, half of the stores could still not manage to open. They will solve their individual problems at first, then will look for collective compensation.”

For nail salons, the business usually reaches a peak on weekends. But many stores were still closed on the 15th due to the blackout. One owner said, “To compensate what we lost on Friday, when most customers come to the salon, we had no choice but work on Sunday.” However, their damage was relatively small compared to other businesses, because they use less electricity. JooSuk Bang, the president of Korean Nail Salon Association of New York said, “I am trying to make a statistic chart of damages to our member stores, but it is hard to get through phone lines.” On the other hand, EunSil Kim, of the Korean Nail Salon Association of New Jersey, said, “In New Jersey, many stores closed early on 14th and now, all salons are back to normal. Even some stores have more customers than before, because those who couldn’t go to work visited to get manicures.”

The damages are severe in restaurants. From the beginning of the blackout, Korean restaurants lost dinner customers, and lots of food had to be thrown out. Many fresh seafood restaurants especially had to get rid of fish, because oxygen and air generators in the fish tanks went off. Not only sushi restaurants, but most other restaurants usually prepare a day’ ingredients in the morning and keep them in the refridgerator, which had to be emptied that day. One employee in a restaurant in Elmhurst, Queens, mentioned that the amount of garbage the morning after the blackout was more than twice the normal amount.

Korean fisheries were affected the most. ChangRae Choi, the president of the Korean Seafood Association of New York, said, “In Queens, Brooklyn, and Downtown Manhattan, we were less affected due to relatively early recovery of the system, however, in other places including Bronx, the industry was seriously damaged.” He added, “It was hard to find any ice to keep seafood cool, so all went into garbage. The Fulton market couldn’t go back to normal until the next Monday. Early morning on Friday, ice trucks with fish arrived and returned, because delivery workers at the market weren’t there to pick them up. On the 15th, Korean seafood retail barely reached 30 percent of normal Friday sales. I am still estimating the exact number of damage.”

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Translated from Korean by Joo Yeon Lee

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