Following the Lotte Group’s decision to give up land so that Seoul can set up its THAAD missile defense system, the South Korean conglomerate appears to be facing the full brunt of Chinese aunties’ and uncles’ patriotic outrage.
On Sunday, a group of around 20 men and women protested in front of a Lotte supermarket in Jilin, holding up a banner stating that: “South Korea’s Lotte Group has declared war on China. Lotte supports THAAD. They must immediately GET OUT of China.”
Photos from the protest only went viral on Chinese social media today. Many of the top commenters have ridiculed the protesters, accusing them of being “brainwashed Boxers,” or wondering how much they had been paid.
“After Lotte starts offering storewide discounts, the protesters will throw down their banners one by one and rush inside to go shopping,” one Weibo user commented.
“And yet, all the workers inside the Lotte supermarket are their fellow countrymen,” another pointed out.
“North Korean missile tests endanger Jilin as well, why have I not seen any Jilin aunties protesting at the North Korean consulate or restaurants?” wondered another netizen.
Of course, there were other social media users who applauded in support for the protesters. Before the land-swap took place, a poll by the nationalistic Global Times found that 95% of respondents said they would boycott Lotte if they agreed to the deal.
Chinese state media have also been able to find former loyal Lotte shoppers who say that they plan to boycott the company following its decision.
“I used to buy some daily commodities at the Lotte Mart, which is near my home,” one man told CGTN. “But after the THAAD incident, I will go there less often.” He apparently added that Lotte’s move was a “provocation to the Chinese people.”
With over 100 supermarkets and 5 department stores in China, Lotte has admitted that it is concerned about the havoc that rising tensions could wreak on its business. Already, the company suffers from undeclared economic sanctions from China. Last year, it was forced to shutter three retail stores near Beijing and suspend construction on a $2.6 billion theme park project it was building in Shenyang after facing a series of regulatory probes.
Regular outbursts of nationalism have become a cost of doing business in China for foreign companies. Following the South China Sea arbitration ruling in The Hague last summer, similar protests broke out against KFC and Apple.
[Images via NetEase]
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