South Korea’s Lotte Group continues to feel the pain for its decision last week to ignore warnings from China and hand over land to the Seoul government for the construction of the THAAD missile system.
On Monday, Lotte announced that 23 of its supermarkets in China had been closed following inspections. While the reasons for all the closings were not made clear, workers at three of the stores told Reuters that their outlets had been closed temporarily for fire-safety related reasons. Meanwhile, the Anhui fire department announced on Weibo that two Lotte supermarkets were part of 30 stores that had been closed as fire risks during recent safety inspections around the province.
Last week, the South Korean consortium became the target of Chinese nationalists, hackers and state media after it finally agreed to hand over its golf course in the rural southeastern county of Seongju to the government for the construction of the US-backed THAAD missile shield system. Facing a nuclear-obsessed neighbor, Seoul sees the system as necessary to its survival. At the same time, Beijing views it as a threat to its own national security and has vowed to take “countermeasures.”
Patriotic aunties have answered Beijing’s call, protesting in front of a Lotte Mart in Jilin last week, holding up a banner reading: “South Korea’s Lotte Group has declared war on China. Lotte supports THAAD. Get the hell out China” between dances. Chinese hackers have also done their part, crashing Lotte’s Chinese website last week.
Photos of shuttered Lotte stores went viral on Chinese social media on Monday, and were met with widespread approval. “The instructions are very clear. 115 shops to go,” commented one Weibo user.
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 that it was building in Shenyang after facing a series of regulatory probes.
In a statement on Sunday, Lotte said that it was seeking the assistance of the South Korean government. But China’s Foreign Ministry did not help to calm fears on Monday, stating that while China welcomed South Korean investment, the foreign firms “must operate in accordance with the law and compliance.”
[Images via NetEase]
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