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Korean businesses concerned about security during Pope Francis visit

Not everyone in downtown El Paso is excited about Pope Francis’ visit to Juarez. Some businesses are apprehensive about the hundreds of thousands of people that are expected to flood the area.

The Segundo Barrio neighborhood will be closed during the Pope’s visit, from loop 375 to the south, Campbell to the west, Paisano to the north, and Coles-First streets to the east. But the businesses around the area will remain open.

“This January is very slow,” said Benjamin Kim, owner of J.K Tennis shoe store. “I open 9:30-6:30, even though I just (surf) the internet.”

A tumbling peso rate means sharp drop in Mexican customers for the Kim’s. But the thought of half a million people flooding this side of the border and filling the streets isn’t making the Kim’s optimistic, nor the hundred other Korean-owned business that could stand to gain.

“Downtown is very quiet, secure, peaceful,” Kim said. “My cash register is just here. No one asks to rob, or asks for money, it’s very peaceful.”

The concern is theft, the inability to control large crowds that may descend on these relaxed shops. Merchandise adorns the sidewalks and entrances, the owners keep casual watch from the back. Although it’d be easier to shut down, Korean shop owners say they can’t afford to.

“Right now business is slow,” said one business owner.”Everybody has to keep their business. They’re going to be open, because they have to pay rent.”

But potential profits aren’t enough to pacify the Kim’s, who fear they have more to lose than to gain.

“I worry about the security,” Kim said. “Strangers, out-of-town persons are coming — maybe more violent. I don’t know.”

El Paso Police said even though Kim’s shop is not in the closed off area, there will still be a heavy police presence in and around the area, which should also act as a deterrent.

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