Lotte Mart’s homepage in China
With signs of recovery in relations between South Korea and China after Korea’s new government set sail, Lotte Mart website in China has reopened after two-month-long shutdown, and Chinese authority’s restrictions on trips to Korea are also expected to be eased.
According to Lotte Mart on Tuesday, its official website in China has reactivated since last week after closing down on March 1 when Lotte Group decided to yield its golf course to the Korean government for the U.S. Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) antimissile battery, further souring ties between the two countries and hiking hostility toward Korean businesses operating in China. During the last two months, the website just said it was under repair, but now it is up and running normally.
Some industry watchers suggest that it could be a sign that Lotte would resume operations of its Lotte Mart grocery stores in China. Currently, 74 out of 99 stores in the country have been forced to close down after the authority’s fire safety inspection, and 13 are also out of business. About 90 percent of Lotte Mart stores have been shut down, and the rest 12 stores are also not under normal operations as Chinese shoppers stopped coming.
Travel agencies in Korea are also hopeful that Beijing might lift its travel ban to Korea. An official from a local travel agency said its two Chinese counterparts last weekend requested a cost estimate for a group tour package for about 30 people, adding that it could be a sign that Chinese travel companies are also expecting lifting of the ban.
According to sources in the tourism industry, the Chinese authority’s measure to toughen visa issuance for individual travelers has recently been eased. Travel restrictions for group tour to Korea are also expected to be lifted sooner or later, another travel agency official said.
Since Korea’s new President Moon Jae-in entered office last week, Beijing-Seoul relations have shown signs of thaw. Chinese President Xi Jinping made a congratulatory call to Moon last week and Moon pledged to send special envoys to China as soon as possible as part of efforts to mend ties that have deteriorated following Seoul’s deployment of the U.S. antimissile system on the Korean soil.
The new president of Korea has been critical about the deployment of THAAD without full consent from the public in the country. After the former Park Geun-hye government decided to deploy the antimissile system, the Chinese government that sees the system a threat to the country has launched a slew of retaliatory measures against Korean businesses operating in China.
By Son Il-seon and Yeon Gyu-wook
[ⓒ Pulse by Maeil Business Newspaper & mk.co.kr, All rights reserved]