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Ask the Seoul Tourism Organization’s COVID-19 Emergency Response Center


No events, no profits? Ask the Seoul Tourism Organization’s COVID-19 Emergency Response Center

Get free legal, labor, and tax consulting at Seoul Mice Center

Question: My organization has decided to cancel an event because of the coronavirus outbreak. Do we still have to pay the rental fees and other costs?

Answer: Legally speaking, the exemption of performance depends on what the contract says. If the contract explicitly states that force majeure events include unforeseeable and uncontrollable occurrence of a disease as well as natural disasters, COVID-19 may be considered a force majeure event that will exempt a party from having to fulfill its contractual obligations (Choi Hee-jung, attorney at the management & legal team).

The Seoul Tourism Organization set up an emergency response center to help out MICE companies severely impacted by COVID-19. The organization operates Seoul MICE Center that provides free legal counselling for over 1,000 MICE firms in Seoul. The center matches companies with legal experts who offer advice on management and legal, HR and labor, and accounting and tax issues. Could it revive the tourism and MICE industries hit by the unprecedented disaster of the novel coronavirus outbreak that has been sweeping the world for the past five months?

The Seoul MICE Center opened in June 2019 to offer consulting services for SMEs in the tourism and MICE sectors. The one-on-one consulting sessions with experts have three steps: identifying the problem, presenting the company with expert opinions and similar cases, and finding practical solutions to the problem. 

In last year, the management and legal team of the MICE center received inquiries, most of which had to do with contract review and balances. But recently, the team mostly had to handle contractual disputes arising from events delayed or canceled because of COVID-19. They usually involved unfair demands, extra deposits, amendment of labor contracts, and employment insurance and paid leave. 

The HR and labor team is also seeing increase in inquiries as more businesses close down. Some of the major issues for the team last year were about the government’s new policies such as the 52-hour workweek, paid leave, flexible workhours, and establishment of labor-management committees. But this year, the team mostly had to deal with issues such as the COVID-19 employment assistance and drawing up new employment rules and contracts aligned with the assistance. 

The team had the highest number of in-depth consulting inquiries as every company has different employee composition and the areas of human resources and labor rapidly change. Some of the most frequently covered issues were the legal status of laborers, applying for the government’s financial aids, paid leave, and reimbursement of overseas business trip expenses. 

Under its slogan, “Crisis into Opportunity”, the Seoul Tourism Organization has laid out practical strategies to mobilize all available resources and help MICE firms in Seoul recover from pandemic-induced damages and get back on track. The MICE Center will serve as a temporary COVID-19 emergency response center to offer services for a wide spectrum of issues from problem identification to designing solutions. 

Recognizing that one company means hundreds of families, the center provides MICE players with high-quality and in-depth consulting with experts. The center is also running a project to give up to 5 million won to 500 MICE companies in financial aid and Seoul MICE Growing Challenge that offers free online courses for companies in the industry. 

One of the officials from the Seoul Tourism Organization proudly stated that the center will help MICE firms quickly recover from the impacts of COVID-19 with its consulting services.