Chinese companies join boycott of South Korean retailer Lotte over missile shield plans
Lotte sees protests and business boycotts on mainland over its decision to provide land for the US THAAD system
Several Chinese companies say they will no longer do business with South Korea’s Lotte Group, after it agreed on Monday to provide land to host a US anti-missile system that Beijing sees as a threat to national security.
Authorities have also taken law enforcement action over the past few days against South Korea’s fifth-largest conglomerate, which has more than 80 supermarkets in China, but did not connect the move to the deployment of the Terminal High-Altitude Area Defence system (THAAD).
Public resentment against Lotte has risen rapidly over the last few days, with protesters in several cities calling for a boycott of the group.
The Legal Daily reported on Thursday that officials in Anhui confiscated 30 “illegal radio transmission” units from a Lotte supermarket and fined the company 20,000 yuan (US$2,900).
The report said Anhui communications authorities found abnormal signals coming from a Lotte supermarket in Wuhui on Tuesday.
In Beijing, a Lotte supermarket was fined 44,000 yuan on Tuesday for illegal advertising, the Legal Mirror reported, adding that it was the first time Beijing officials had penalised a company for such an offence.
Sun Jiwen, a spokesman at the Ministry of Commerce, said on Thursday that China opposed the deployment of THAAD.
He said China valued economic cooperation with South Korea and would respect the rights of South Korean companies, but that their operations should be in compliance with the law.
State media have demanded that Lotte – one of South Korea’s major retail operators in China – withdraw its decision to sell a golf course in Seongju county, South Korea to the military to host the THAAD system.
Commentary in the Guangming Daily on Thursday said Lotte was “commercially unwise and morally unjust” for making profits from China while undermining its national security.
Jiangsu-based financial and retail group Ruixiang said in an online notice on Thursday that its shopping card programme with about 50 Lotte outlets in the province would be suspended.
South Korean products were also no longer for sale at Ruixiang’s online platform and its supermarkets. Products from Lotte were destroyed, the notice said.
“We will not bring the Chinese people any products from an immoral corporation,” it added.
Chen Ou, the chief executive officer of cosmetic retail platform Jumei, said on his Weibo account on Tuesday that his group would not sell products from Lotte. Henan-based Huilong Food also announced that it would suspend cooperation with the group.
Media also reported that protestors gathered in front of a Lotte Mart in Jilin province, demanding that the group leave China.
The public security bureau in Nantong, Jiangsu called on protestors to remain “rational” and said police would crack down on illegal activity.
On Thursday, Lotte Duty Free said a cyber attack using Chinese IP addresses had crashed the Chinese version of its website on Wednesday.