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Korean seniors and Flushing McDonald’s owner reach peace


| mchan@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Melissa Chan

A group of Korean seniors and the owner of an embattled Flushing McDonald’s have come to a truce, Assemblymember Ron Kim announced Monday.

The feud between the two parties was a “cultural miscommunication,” said Kim, the state’s first Korean-American elected official.

It began when a cluster of about 20 seniors made the corner eatery on Parsons and Northern Blvds. their favorite hangout, taking up seats for about eight hours every day, The Korea Times and New York Times first reported.

The extended stays have kept others from patronizing the McDonald’s, franchisee Jack Bert said.

“I’m sure you can imagine any business would find this situation to be difficult,” he said in a statement.

As part of the compromise, Bert agreed to hire Korean-speaking staff members and extend the 20-minute sitting limit to one hour, except from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.

“I’ve been proud to serve this community for nearly 20 years, and my restaurant has been happy to welcome these customers for years,” Bert said.

“I was confident that once we were able to sit together and talk, we would come to a positive resolution that would create an environment where all customers who wish to enjoy this restaurant would have the ability to do so.”

The seniors agreed to abide by the new sitting hours and be transported by the Korean Community Services to meet at local senior centers during the fast-food restaurant’s busy hours.

The dispute, at its peak, led to four police interventions since November, according to the Times.

David Choe, 76, one of the group’s regulars, told The Courier he was insulted to be asked to leave.

“This is my town,” he said. “I’m happy people are taking us seriously now. Before, nobody really cared about this matter.”

It even sparked a boycott last week amongst a trio of Korean activists. Outraged, they called for a worldwide boycott of McDonald’s throughout February.

“Senior citizens have been working hard their whole lives. They should be respected,” said Christine Colligan, co-chair of the Korean American Parents Association of Greater New York, who led the protest. “This is the core of Koreatown. I cannot believe this is happening here.”

Kim said the culture clash also stemmed from a lack of resources for seniors.

“What we’ve done over the last few days is make sure both parties understand where each other is coming from and have some compassion,” he said. “This was a small business owner trying to survive and a small group of seniors trying to find a social space.”

State Senator Toby Ann Stavisky said the compromise represents Flushing’s tradition of respect.

“It goes back hundreds of years,” she said. “It’s a peaceful community, and it’s going to continue to be a peaceful community.”

 

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