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yonhap lotte

A Breakdown of the Lotte Family Feud

by ALEX HYUN | @ahyundarkb4dawn

Two brothers squabble for control of their family’s multimillion corporation while staging coups and firing accusations at each other. No, this isn’t the synopsis for the next big Korean drama. This is the current state of South Korea’s fifth largest conglomerate, Lotte.

Last month, Lotte’s founder and his two prospective heirs became embroiled in a complicated succession battle, which has reignited public antipathy towards chaebols, or family-run conglomerates. Here’s a breakdown of the ongoing Lotte feud.

What is Lotte?



Founded in 1948 in Tokyo by Shin Kyuk-ho, the Lotte Group started off as a chewing gum distributor to children in post-war Japan. Nearly a decade later, Shin expanded the company to South Korea and became the country’s largest confectionary manufacturer.

Lotte group engages in several industries, such as shopping, entertainment, finance, hotels, and food. There are currently 199 locations for its supermarket chain, Lotte Mart, and 34 locations for its Lotte Department Store. The company’s theme park, Lotte World, is one of the largest indoor theme parks in the world, and the construction of Lotte Super Tower 123 is scheduled to become the tallest building on the Korean peninsula.

Lotte’s sales in Korea last year generated nearly $70 billion.

The Feud


Screen Shot 2015-08-11 at 6.51.47 PM(Image via ST Graphics)


The feud began on July 27 when the 92-year-old Shin dismissed his younger son Shin Dong-bin, the chairman of Lotte Group, along with six board directors. According to the Korea Herald, Lotte Group lost billions of dollars from its operations in China over the past four years, and Dong-bin had reportedly failed to report the losses to his father.

A day after his dismissal, Dong-bin held an emergency board meeting and staged a coup to remove his father as general chairman of the company’s holdings. As a result, the younger son kept both of his executive titles.

The move angered Shin Dong-joo, the oldest son and former CEO of Lotte Group Japan, who called his father’s demotion unlawful. In January 2015, Dong-joo himself was fired after his father discovered that he had overstepped his role by meddling in the management of Korean operations. During his older brother’s absence, Dong-bin was promoted to head Tokyo-based Lotte Holdings, gaining control of both Lotte groups in Japan and Korea.

To win back his father’s support, Dong-joo reportedly flew to Seoul and sought forgiveness. However, the tables have turned after Shin was ousted from his position.

On July 29, Dong-joo presented a letter purportedly signed by his father that proclaimed him as the heir to the company’s holdings, according to CNBC. However, Dong-bin denounced the document, arguing that it is “not legally binding” and that Shin could have written it under duress.

Recently, Dong-bin made a public apology for the chaos that has befallen the company and assured the public that the issue will be resolved. Meanwhile, Shin has called Dong-bin’s actions “unforgivable” and the family feud a “pitiable situation.” The founder added that he never appointed his second son as the heir of Lotte Group.

Is Lotte Korean or Japanese?



(Image via Wikimedia Commons/Public Domain)


The feud has also sparked a debate over whether Lotte is a Japanese or Korean company. Although Lotte was founded in Tokyo, the company’s operations in Korea are 15 times bigger than those in Japan.

Born and raised in Japan by their Japanese mother, Dong-joo and Dong-bin speak very little Korean, according to Asia One. After KBS aired an interview with Dong-joo and his father speaking in Japanese, Korean viewers have criticized the Shin family for their lack of Korean-speaking abilities and voiced their confusion on Lotte’s corporate identity. In a bid to win public opinion, Dong-bin has apologized and released statements in Korean.

“Lotte is a Korean company,” he said in Korean at a news conference last week. “About 95 percent of the total sales are generated in Korea.”

Still, Japan’s media and public consider Lotte as a Japanese company. Many Koreans are beginning to adopt this viewpoint as well, especially after the media reported that Japanese firms own 99 percent of Seoul-based Lotte Hotel Co.’s shares.


Other chaebol feuds and scandals




Chaebols have been widely criticized for their economic dominance as well as their lack of business ethics and transparency. As these conglomerates prepare to transition ownership to a third-generation, there is growing public concern about corporate heirs not being qualified to effectively run their companies.

Lotte’s recent feud is making headlines, but it’s not the first of its kind.

Hyundai is the first company that comes to mind when discussing issues with the chaebol system. Founded in 1946 by Chung Ju-yung, Hyundai’s rise to success is marred by the untimely deaths of Chung’s sons and a power struggle within the family that continues today.

SK Group, South Korea’s largest wireless mobile phone service provider, has also seen its fair share of scandal. The current chairman of the company, Chey Tae-won, commands the company from prison after he was convicted of embezzling nearly 50 billion won, according to the Straits Times. His younger brother, Chey Jae-won, is also serving prison time for collusion charges.

See Also: South Korean Court Frees ‘Nut Rage’ Executive Heather Cho

While feuds and scandals are nothing new to chaebols, the Lotte succession feud particularly stands out because it’s very rare to see a son oust his father from a company he founded.

What is the future of Lotte?


nabmlotte3815(Photo via Bloomberg)

It is difficult to say what the future holds for these family-run conglomerates. With Lotte’s recent power struggle, investors both domestic and foreign may take more considerations before investing in South Korean companies.

Lotte’s future is a waiting game at this point in time. A shareholder meeting is expected on Aug.17 to discuss the future for the brothers involved in the recent power struggle, according to Yonhap News Agency. Still, some have called for the government to step in.

“If Lotte can’t do it, the government and the National Parliament should execute an all-out reform of cheabol,” said the Citizens’ Coalition for Economic Justice.

Fortunately for some, reform may be on the way. Business Korea reported on Friday the South Korean government, the Saenuri Party, and the Fair Trade Commission met on Aug.6 to deliberate over possible reforms for chaebols including Lotte.

See Also

Daum Kakao Appoints South Korea’s Youngest CEO


Featured image via Yonhap

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Daum Kakao Appoints South Korea’s Youngest CEO

by JAMES S. KIM | @james_s_kim

Daum Kakao has named 34-year-old Rim Ji Hoon as CEO, making him the youngest corporate boss in South Korea, according to Korean corporate watchdog CEOScore.

Rim is the youngest CEO among Korea’s top 500 companies, while the second youngest CEO after Rim is 46 years old.

임지훈 카카오톡Rim Ji Hoon (Photo via Metro Seoul)

CEOScore also speculates that Brian Kim (Kim Bum-soo), the founder of KakaoTalk who later acquired Daum Communications, may have made the decision.

With the help of Kim, Rim founded K Cube Ventures—a venture capital firm that focuses on Internet, game and tech startups—in 2012. Since then, the young venture capitalist has invested in more than 50 startups, including SundayToz, the developer of the popular mobile game Anipang.

Rim’s appointment is considered a “bold move” for a major South Korean company, not just due to his age. The top positions in Korean chaebols are usually held by family members or longtime, loyal employees. Other than his connection to Kim through K Cube Ventures, Rim is from outside the company. His appointment has also drawn comparisons to Softbank’s Nikesh Arora, who was named president of the Japanese company earlier this year.

Rim is a graduate of the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology. He worked at global consulting firms and Naver Corp. before going into venture capitalism with Softbank Ventures and then K Cube Ventures.

See Also:


How KakaoTalk Founder Became SKorea’s Rarest Billionaire

Tech Startups Find a Home in Koreatown’s Kolabs


All images via Metro Seoul

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Seoul’s Poop Café Offers Sweet Treats

by ALEX HYUN | @ahyundarkb4dawn

Can you smell it? That aroma of delectable coffee wafting from a toilet bowl. Wait, what?

According to Korean food and lifestyle blog Seoul Searching (not to be mistaken for Benson Lee‘s film), there’s a trendy coffee shop in Seoul called the “Poop Café.” The exterior of the café looks fairly ordinary, but once inside, visitors can find tiny plunger ornaments hanging off Christmas trees, cartoon poop murals covering walls and plants potted in squat toilets.

poop cafeSONY DSCSONY DSC(Photos via Seoul Searching)

14288312693_7b6047d0e8_b(Photo via Seoul State of Mind)

Compared to Taiwan’s bathroom-themed restaurant, Modern Toilet, Seoul’s Poop Café is more subtle with their poop decor. For one, there are no glitzy toilet-shaped seats or bathtub-shaped tables. The café is minimalistic and uses mismatched chairs and wooden tables to give off a more cozy feeling. Quirky porcelain mugs featuring cute poop cartoons are displayed on wooden shelves, and colorful poop plushies rest on various tables. Many guests seem to enjoy wearing the plushies on their heads.

1380594485754872872SONY DSCSONY DSC(Photos via Seoul Searching)

You can also drink hot coffee out of mini-toilet shaped cups. Poop-shaped scones are also served with strawberry jam. If you’re lucky, the barista will decorate your rose latte with some poop art.

SONY DSCSONY DSC(Photos via Seoul Searching)

There’s even a small vendor outside the establishment separately selling poop-shaped Korean bread filled with red bean or chocolate for about $1 each.

poop bread vendor(Photo via Seoul Searching)

Screen Shot 2015-08-11 at 12.37.59 PM(Screenshot captured via sweetandtastyTV)

The café is located in Insadong (인삳동) near the Gyeongbok Palace (경복궁). It’s on the fourth floor of the Ssamzie-gil Mall (쌈지길). If you’re traveling to Korea and you’re in the Insadong area, treat yourself to some poop. As a hardy traveler, you deserve it.

See Also


7 Unique Beers You Can Order in Seoul

Tourists Flock to Hongdae’s Sheep Cafe for Lunar New Year


Featured image via Seoul Searching

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South Korea Issues Warning for Japanese Encephalitis

by ALEX HYUN| @ahyundarkb4dawn

On the heels of the MERS (Middle Easter Respiratory Syndrome) virus outbreak, South Korea has issued another health warning, albeit one for a less severe virus.

The Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC) on Thursday issued a nationwide warning against Japanese encephalitis, a virus that is predominantly transmitted by mosquitoes and can cause acute inflammation of the brain in humans.

Symptoms include high fever, vomiting, diarrhea and, in severe cases, death. However, the vast majority of infections are asymptomatic; only 1 in 250 cases develop symptoms.

Earlier this week, KCDC found a number of mosquitos carrying Japanese encephalitis in the southern port city of Busan, according to Yonhap News Agency. Since mosquitoes in Busan are most active until the end of October, KCDC advised the public to use mosquito nets, limit outdoor activities and wear long sleeves and pants to prevent infection. The center also encourage the public to pay attention to hygiene and get vaccinated.

This isn’t the first time South Korea has dealt with Japanese encephalitis. In 2014, KCDC issued a nationwide warning amid a mosquito population spike. About 14 people were infected with the virus last year, according to Stars and Stripes.

As children tend have a more vulnerable immune system, KCDC recommended that children aged 12 months to 13 years old be vaccinated against Japanese encephalitis. Travelers were also advised to get vaccination before visiting South Korea, especially if they plan to stay for more than a month in rural endemic areas.


Featured image courtesy of U.S. Air Force/Senior Airman Michael Battles

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Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg Visits South Korea to Discuss Equal Rights


by ALEX HYUN | @ahyundarkb4dawn

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, a longtime pioneer for gender equality, abortion rights and same-sex marriage, is on a five-day trip to South Korea to meet with members of the Constitutional Court of Korea and address issues of social equality and human rights, according to Yonhap News.

Ginsburg is the first Supreme Court justice to visit South Korea since Sandra Day O’Connor in 1987. Her trip comes during a Supreme Court recess that lasts until October and just a little more than a month after the Court, by a 5-4 vote, struck down bans against same-sex marriage throughout the country.

At 82, Ginsburg is currently the oldest justice on the Supreme Court bench. She was appointed in 1993 by President Clinton, becoming the second female justice in the history of the Supreme Court. She is considered a part of the Court’s liberal wing, and is known as much for her forceful dissents as she is her majority opinions in cases involving gender discrimination in the workplace, racially discriminatory hiring practices and abortion rights. Before she joined the bench, she worked as a law professor and co-founded the American Civil Liberties Union Women’s Rights Project in 1972.

In South Korea, Ginsburg met with Korea Supreme Court Chief Justice Yang Sung-tae to discuss human rights and minority rights protection.

The justice also attended a special dinner at the U.S. military base in Yongsan, in which invited guests included well-known South Korean film director Kim Jho Gwangsoo and his partner Kim Seung-hwan, and transgender pop star Harisu. Food was served by Korea’s first openly gay chef-comedian, Hong Seok-cheon, reported Korea Bizwire.

Ginsburg’s message to dinner attendees was to offer hope that social change is on the horizon in South Korea. Still very much a socially conservative society, South Korea does not recognize same-sex marriage and continues to grapple with workplace inequity among men and women.

“Do not lose your faith in change and pluck up your courage,” Ginsburg told the attendees, as reported by Korea Bizwire. “The United States changed even later than the Netherlands. Korea can go forward towards change in a calm and orderly way.”

On Wednesday, Ginsburg met with Korea’s Constitutional Court president Park Han-chul, reported the JoongAng Ilbo, and along with Justice Kim So-young—one of two females out of 14 members on the Supreme Court of Korea—delivered a speech on the issue of protecting minority rights.

“Give the same opportunities to your daughters…with no artificial barriers placed in the way,” Ginsburg said, according to the JoongAng Ilbo.

The justice is being accompanied on her South Korea trip by daughter Jane Ginsburg, a professor at Columbia Law School, South Korean media outlets reported.


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North Korea Airs Video of Detained Canadian Pastor Confessing to Crimes

by ALEX HYUN | @ahyundarkb4dawn

North Korea on Monday released a video footage of a detained Korean Canadian pastor purportedly confessing before a Pyongyang church congregation that he had committed crimes against the state, reports Reuters.

Rev. Hyeon-soo Lim, head of the 3,000-member Light Korean Presbyterian Church in Toronto, entered North Korea last January for a routine humanitarian visit. Since 1997, the 60-year-old pastor has traveled to the isolated state more than 100 times and oversees a nursing home and orphanage there, according to his church. In March, North Korea notified the Canadian government of Lim’s detainment.

Nearly six months after his detainment, Lim made his first public appearance at a July 30 news conference, where he confessed to illegally entering the capital, violating the country’s Ebola quarantine policy and conducting “subversive plots” to overthrow the North Koran government.

On Aug. 2, Lim made another public appearance at Pyongyang’s Bongsu Church, one of the capital’s few state-operated churches that is often used for propaganda purposes. According to Voice of America, Lim provided the names of pastors in the United States and South Korea who have been involved with attempting to overturn the North Korean government.

“The worst crime I committed was to rashly defame and insult the highest dignity and the system of the republic,” Lim said as he read from what appeared to be a script.

The video of his confession was initially posted on Uriminzokkiri, a state-run propaganda website.

South Korean and Western media outlets have accused North Korea of forcing the pastor to make a false confession. However, Pyongyang denied these allegations on Tuesday, claiming that foreign media were “spreading misinformation.”

While Lim is currently making headlines, he is certainly not the first North American detainee forced to confess to crimes against North Korea.

Last April, Korean American humanitarian worker Sandra Suh was deported after she reportedly spread anti-North Korean propaganda, according to the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA).

In 2010, Canada suspended diplomatic relations with Pyongyang. However, the country’s department of foreign affairs said that it is very concerned for Lim’s well-being, saying that it’s making efforts to negotiate his release, reported CNN.

You can watch the entire recording of the Lim’s news conference below:

See Also


Korean Canadian Pastor Reported Missing in North Korea

The Rundown on Won-moon Joo, the NYU Student Detained in North Korea


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liberation day

South Korea Declares Aug. 14 as Temporary Holiday for Independence Day Festivities


by ALEX HYUN| @ahyundarkb4dawn

This year, the South Korean government has temporarily labeled Aug. 14 as an extra public holiday in conjunction with the country’s 70th Liberation Day holiday held on Aug. 15.

National Liberation Day, also known as Gwangbokjeol, commemorates Korea’s independence from Japanese 1910-1945 colonial rule, which ended after Japan surrendered to the Allies in WWII.

South Korea’s move to designate the 14th as a holiday is a response to the loss of morale and economic profits, which was spurred by the MERS (Middle East Respiratory Syndrome) outbreak.

“We should make the 70th Liberation Day a turning point to boost the public sense of pride, revive the depressed atmosphere and boost consumers’ sentiments,” President Park Geun-hye said during a Cabinet meeting on Tuesday, according to the Korea Herald.

Such a temporary holiday is not a new phenomenon in South Korea. In July 2002, a holiday was celebrated for Korea qualifying for the semi-finals of the World Cup. The opening day of the Seoul Olympics also saw a temporary holiday in 1988.

According to the Korea Herald, the government will exempt foreign travelers from paying motorway toll fees and will offer discounted tickets for railway travelers. Fifteen historic sites, including Gyeongbokgung Palace and Deoksugung Palace, as well as 41 recreational forests will be open for free during the Liberation Day weekend.

The government also plans to issue an order to close all public offices and agencies on the Aug. 14, a day before Liberation Day festivities begin. Private companies will be given the choice to follow this directive.

South Korea’s tourism industry has plunged in recent months due to the MERS scare, with a 41 percent decrease in incoming international visitors in June, compared to statistics from last year. However, South Korea declared an end to the outbreak on July 27, and foreign tourists have started making their way back to the country. On Tuesday, Seoul reported its 30th consecutive day without an additional MERS case.

South Korea’s Finance Minister Choi Kyung-hwan expects the temporary holiday to “induce about 1.3 trillion won worth of domestic consumption and create 46,000 new jobs,” according to the Korea Herald.

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Featured image via Yonhap

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park health ministry

President Park Nominates New Health Minister After MERS Scare

by REERA YOO | @reeraboo

South Korean President Park Geun-hye has decided to replace her health minister after the government was criticized for its poor handling of the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) outbreak that killed 36 people and infected 186 people, reports Reuters.

Last week, South Korea declared itself virtually free of MERS, as there were no new cases of the virus in three weeks. The infections could be traced back to a 68-year-old businessman who returned to Seoul from the Middle East, where the coronavirus was first identified, in May.

More than 17,000 people in Korea were quarantined as the virus continued to spread through hospitals. Thousands of schools in Seoul were also closed during the peak of the outbreak.

South Korean media have criticized Health Minister Moon Hyung-pyo for withholding the names of the hospitals that had handled MERS patients, which led to nationwide panic and confusion. Seoul citizens also voiced their complaints over the government’s failure to swiftly contain the virus in its early stages.

President Park nominated Chung Chin-youb, a local medical professor and orthopedic surgeon, to replace Moon as health minister, according to a statement issued by Park’s office on Tuesday. The statement described Chung as someone who can “strengthen public health care,” according to Yonhap News Agency.

Although Chung is required to go through a confirmation hearing, his nomination does not need parliamentary approval.

MERS usually does not spread so easily, but health experts suspect that South Korean patients’ habit of “doctor shopping,” the practice of seeking care at multiple hospitals to treat the same illness, may have contributed to the widespread transmission. Last week, South Korea’s health ministry said it plans to establish a new system that will require all hospital visitors to register at the entrance in order to reduce the risk of outbreaks in medical facilities.

See Also


South Koreans Develop MERS Info-Sharing Tools

South Korea Declares Itself Free of MERS Danger


Featured image via Yonhap

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