BEIJING (AFP) – Dozens of people holding Chairman Mao posters protested in China’s Jilin province on Sunday (March 5), calling for a boycott of South Korean goods as part of a backlash against the country’s Lotte Group.
The retail giant has faced growing opposition in China since signing a deal to provide land for a US missile-defence system Tuesday.
The plan to install the Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense (Thaad) system was prompted by threats from North Korea, but Beijing fears the move will undermine its own military capabilities.
“No to THAAD! Boycott Korean goods!” chanted the protesters in northern Jilin province. “Patriotism starts with me! Long live the Communist Party!”
Similar protests have sprouted across the country, as Lotte suffers setbacks in several of its Chinese ventures – from last month’s government-ordered halt of a US$2.6 billion theme park project to apparent cyber-attacks on company websites.
Citing fire violations, authorities in Liaoning’s Dandong city have also suspended the operation of Lotte Mart, the Yonhap news agency reported on Saturday. Earlier this week, major tour operators confirmed to AFP that trips to South Korea have been suspended “due to policy and safety factors.”
China has repeatedly denounced Thaad as a threat to its security, with a foreign ministry spokesman saying “the consequences entailed will be borne by the US and the Republic of Korea”.
Calls are growing in China for Beijing to use the carrot and stick of its huge market to raise pressure on South Korea to abandon the Thaad plan.
The stakes are high for Lotte, which has invested more than 10 trillion won (US$8.76 billion) in its Chinese operations since 1994.