SEOUL – The majority of South Korea’s Lotte supermarkets in China have been placed under suspension in an alleged sign of protest at the deployment of the controversial THAAD missile defense system in South Korea.
Chinese authorities recently appear to have increased pressure on supermarkets belonging to South Korea’s fifth-largest conglomerate, Lotte Group, following the company’s announcement on Feb. 28 that it had handed over one of its properties to the Korean military to be used as a site for the United States’ THAAD.
According to data collected by Yonhap news agency, 67 Lotte Mart stores operating in China have been placed under suspension as of Sunday.
The company also voluntarily closed another 20 supermarkets due to persistent anti-Korea protests, Yonhap reported.
Only 12 out of the 99 Lotte supermarkets in China are now operating normally.
This has raised concerns over the company’s future in China, where its stores are already facing deficiency balance.
Analysts predict that Lotte could lose more than $100 million if these closures last for a month.
Since Seoul and Washington approved the deployment of the THAAD defense system last July, protests in Beijing have been rising.
China says the radars of the anti-missile shield, which is designed for demolishing North Korean missiles that may fall on South Korea, could be used for spying on its military bases.
The Chinese boycott against South Korean products and companies due to THAAD has intensified in recent months, affecting everything from the cosmetics industry to audio-visual products and tourism.