Opinion / Wang Hui

ROK conglomerate will damage its business if it agrees to missile deal

By Wang Hui (chinadaily.com.cn) Updated: 2017-02-21 14:05

ROK conglomerate will damage its business if it agrees to missile deal

File photo shows Seoungju residents chant slogans during a protest against the government's decision on deploying a US THAAD anti-missile defense unit in Seongju, in Seoul, South Korea, July 21, 2016. The banner reads "Desperately oppose deploying THAAD". [Photo/Agencies]

The Republic of Korea's retail giant Lotte Group is now at the center of the political storm raging between the ROK and China over the former's decision to deploy a US missile defense system.

Under a ROK government-proposed deal, a golf course, currently owned by Lotte, could be used as the site for the deployment of THAAD. A decision by the company's board giving a green light to the deal could be made at the end of this month.

The ROK company should be aware that what it is considering is not at all a normal business deal as it is politically driven. This may well explain why it is drawing strong opposition from people in both countries.

ROK protesters say the deployment of THAAD system, instead of shielding the country, as is alleged, from potential attacks by its neighbor in the north, will worsen the ROK's security outlook and only serves the security interests of the United States.

For China's part, both its government and people oppose the attempt of the US and the ROK to deploy THAAD, deeming the move as a severe threat to its strategic interests, which will also have severe consequences for peace and stability in Northeast Asia.

As a Xinhua commentary has rightfully pointed out, the Chinese people will not support a company complicit in damaging China's interests. If it allows the ROK government to deploy the THAAD system on the land it owns, Lotte will put itself in opposition to the Chinese people.

Lotte, the ROK's fifth largest conglomerate, entered the Chinese market in 1994. It now has more than 120 branches in China in the retail sector alone, with its business covering sectors from food, retail, tourism, construction to finance and services.

Company data show Chinese tourists also contributed 70 percent of Lotte's overall sales in its duty-free shops in ROK in the first quarter of last year.

Lotte's reliance on the Chinese market and Chinese consumers has prompted media in both countries to warn that its land swap deal, if approved, will cost it dearly.

In an opinion poll conducted on Sunday by the website affiliated to the Beijing-based Global Times newspaper 95.3 percent of the respondents said they would boycott Lotte if the deal goes ahead.

Such a prospect will mean a slump in Lotte's business in China, which will in turn deal a heavy blow to the ROK company. Lotte should think twice before making a decision which will put its own business at risk. It should not allow itself to fall victim of the ROK government's wrong proposal to deploy THAAD .

Lotte should make the wise decision and say no to the land swap deal as it is the only way to prevent its popularity waning further and save its business prospects in both countries.

The ROK conglomerate's trouble originates from a major strategic decision jointly made by the US and ROK government in July last year to deploy the US missile defense system in the ROK.

As Foreign Minister Wang Yi pointed out during his meeting with his ROK counterpart Yun Byung-se on the sidelines of the Munich Security Conference, which ended in Germany on Sunday, one country's security should not be built on the basis of harming the security of others.

Wang said China understands ROK's need to safeguard its own security, but Seoul should respect China's right to security at the same time. As this year marks the 25 anniversary of the founding of diplomatic ties between the two countries, it is hoped both sides can continue to build on what has been achieved over the past 25 years of their bilateral interaction.

To prevent the deployment of THAAD from further damaging bilateral ties, the onus is on the ROK to change course.

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