McDonald's is downsizing in Korea as unmanned self-service stores and vending machines replace most of its part-time workers amid a minimum wage hike.
The Korean office of the world's largest fast-food chain started accepting early retirement packages early this month. About 20 employees, or 10 percent of its staff, will be laid off.
McDonald's saw rapid growth in Korea when it was first opened in 1988 during the Summer Olympics in Seoul, until the early 2010s.
It has been struggling with a sharp drop in profits in recent years. Its operating profit plummeted from W10.6 billion in 2012 to W2 billion in 2015 (US$1=W1,074).
A dozen outlets in major commercial districts in Seoul shut down last month alone, and McDonald's is set to close 20 more stores by the end of this year. It had 122 stores in Seoul in 2016, but only 104 as of this month.
Other fast-food chains such as Lotteria and KFC are in a similar situation.
The downsizing is mainly attributed to a hike in the minimum wage, which leads to increasing labor costs. Changing tastes of customers is another factor as more people opt for a healthy diet.