South Korea’s Lotte Duty Free says China cyber attacks crashed website

Lotte Duty Free says a cyber attack using Chinese internet protocol (IP) addresses has crashed its website. It's the latest report of irregularity from a South Korean firm in China since Seoul decided to deploy a US missile defense system.

SEOUL (REUTERS) – A cyber attack from China has crashed the website of Lotte Duty Free, a company official said on Thursday (March 2), at a time when South Korean firms are reporting difficulties in China following the deployment of a US missile defence system on their home soil.

Distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks – when servers are bombarded with requests – crashed the website around 12pm (11am Singapore), the official with direct knowledge of the matter told Reuters, requesting anonymity as the matter was sensitive. “The website is down due to DDoS attacks from China,” the official said.

The Chinese website for the entire Lotte Group, www.lotte.cn, is also down. It has been offline since Wednesday due to a virus, spokesman Kim Min Suk told Reuters on Thursday. “The (two) websites have been down and we are working to get them back online,” Kim said, declining to comment on the nature or origin of the virus or the origin of the DDoS.

The crashes comes after affiliate Lotte International Co Ltd on Monday approved a land swap to allow the US Terminal High Altitude Area Defence (THAAD) system on what was once its property in response to the North Korean missile threat.

Neighbouring China objected to the deployment of the system, which has a radar capable of penetrating Chinese territory, saying it will destabilise regional security while doing little to contain heightened security risk on the Korean peninsula.
Russia also opposed the deployment, scheduled for completion this year.

South Korean companies have reported increasing difficulties in China since deployment was confirmed in November, with Chinese state media calling for a boycott of South Korean goods. South Korean artists have also said performances had been cancelled without clear explanation.

A spokesman at Lotte Mart told Reuters that the retailer’s website was accessible on e-commerce platform JD.com (http://lottemart.jd.com), but that the site did not appear in search results. Lotte Mart has asked JD.com to address the issue, the spokesman said.

Also this month, Lotte Group said Chinese authorities halted construction at a multi-billion dollar real estate project after a fire inspection.

Shares in Lotte Group’s flagship retailer, Lotte Shopping Co Ltd, which has about 120 stores in China, fell as much as 7.8 per cent on Thursday. Lotte Confectionery Co Ltd shares fell 2.8 per cent, while the benchmark share price index rose 0.5 per cent.

The South Korean government expressed concern on Thursday about the plight of South Korean firms in China since the deployment was announced. It said it would continue to engage Beijing in dialogue to ensure activities of South Korean companies in China are not hindered. 

“To be sure, the challenges we face are serious,” Foreign Ministry Spokesman Cho June Hyuck told a news briefing on Thursday.

Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said at a regular news briefing the same day that China opposes all forms of hacking and is willing to work with other nations to oppose it. 

“As for the guesswork of Lotte, I won’t make a comment. But I think there is no clear answer as to the reason (for the attack). This is just their guess,” Geng said.