Korean companies operating in China are exiting the market, as anti-Korean sentiment stemming from intergovernmental tensions over Korea’s deployment of an American anti-missile system continues to hit sales.
On Friday, Lotte Shopping said in a disclosure that it had “selected a managing firm and is considering selling Lotte Mart’s stores in China, but no details have been decided at present.”
On Thursday, reports citing sources at Lotte said that Lotte Shopping had decided to sell its Lotte Mart brand’s 112 stores in China under the management of Goldman Sachs. Lotte Mart is a discount retail chain run by Lotte Shopping.
A shuttered Lotte Mart outlet in China (Yonhap)
The announcement came after the chain denied for months that it had plans to leave the Chinese market. In March, Lotte Group Chairman Shin Dong-bin stated on the record in an interview that the group “hopes to continue doing business in China.”
Lotte has been one of the worst-hit Korean companies in China, as it had provided the Korean government with the site for the deployment of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense system as part of a land swap deal.
Beijing has ramped up safety and sanitary inspections on Lotte Mart stores since early this year, leading to the forced and voluntary closures of about four-fifths of its branches.
In the second quarter of this year, Lotte Mart in China saw just 21 billion won ($18.5 million) in sales, roughly one-tenth of sales compared to the second quarter of last year.
To keep its Chinese business afloat, Lotte had injected 360 billion won in March and another $300 million at the end of August.
It is unclear whether Lotte will be able to sell all of its branches. Industry watchers are also carefully monitoring whether this move will lead to Lotte’s downsizing or the sale of its other businesses in China, including theme parks and department stores. Lotte denies that any other businesses are currently being considered for sale.
“We are not considering selling our China confectionery or beverage businesses,” said an official with Lotte group. “We may, however, pursue other measures such as restructuring.”
Lotte Mart’s planned exit follows an announcement in May that its rival in Korea, E-mart, will be closing down its six Chinese branches once their leases expire. At the time of the announcement, E-mart’s parent company Shinsegae said that the closures were due to long-standing losses in China rather than the tensions between the two countries.
Retail is not the only industry that has taken a blow. Hyundai Motors is also suffering from the fallout. The company entered China through Beijing Hyundai Motor, a joint venture with BAIC Motor, in 2002.
Last month, the company’s Chinese plants halted and restarted production, as parts suppliers had been holding back shipments due to overdue payments.
Hyundai Motors confirmed that BAIC Motor has been pressuring Hyundai to either switch parts suppliers to Chinese companies or lower prices paid to Korean parts companies, as Beijing Hyundai’s sales have halved in recent months. Chinese news outlets have been reporting on the deteriorating relationship between the two partner companies, hinting that BAIC Motor might move to completely dissolve the partnership.
Industry analysts in Korea have noted that BAIC’s aggressive approach toward Hyundai will have a negative effect on Korean auto parts companies in China, including Hyundai Mobis and Hyundai Wia.
In response to North Korea‘s missile launch Friday, South Korea fired off two ballistic missiles, but one of them crashed into the sea, sparking concern over Seoul’s missile capacity to counter the rogue regime.
According to South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff, one Hyunmoo II-A intermediate-range ballistic missile splashed into the East Sea within a few seconds of being launched. The other flew 250 kilometers and hit its intended target accurately in a simulated pre-emptive strike.
South Korea’s military conducted the missile test almost simultaneously with that of North Korea. The North’s missile — thought to be an intermediate-range Hwasong-12 — blasted off at 6:57 a.m. from the vicinity of Sunan airport near Pyongyang.
“We’re trying to determine the exact cause of its failure,” said a Seoul military official who declined to reveal his identity due to the sensitivity of the issue. “We believe there was no damage to the area near the test site.”
Hyunmoo II-A missile. Yonhap
Capable of traveling 300 kilometers and carrying up to a 1.5-ton warhead, the Hyunmoo II-A missile has been billed as a key asset for the South Korean military to destroy North Korea’s underground nuclear sites, missile facilities and wartime commands.
Besides the Hyunmoo II-A, South Korea has similar Hyunmoo-class surface-to-surface missiles. Hyunmoo II-B can fly about 500 kilometers, carrying a 1-ton warhead and Hyunmoo II-C can travel about 800 kilometers, putting nearly all of North Korea within its range.
Earlier this month, South Korea and the United States agreed to scrap limits on the payload of South Korean ballistic missiles. Previously, Seoul was banned from fitting warheads weighing more than 500 kilograms on its ballistic missiles with a range of over 800 kilometers.
Faced with North Korea’s ever-evolving missile threat, South Korea has been scrambling to establish its own three-layered anti-missile system by the 2020s. The system consists of the Kill Chain system, the Korea Air Missile Defense system and Korea Massive Punishment and Retaliation plan.
Kill Chain is designed to detect signs of preparation for a missile launch and strike missile facilities before liftoff. KAMD involves shooting down the missiles midair and KMPR is to strike Pyongyang’s command posts in the event of nuclear attacks.
North Korea fired yet another missile over Japan into the northern Pacific Ocean, South Korean and Japanese officials confirmed Friday, in a clear show of defiance against international sanctions and pressure.
The launch, which came days after the United Nations adopted its toughest-ever sanctions against the North, put millions in Japan into a “duck and cover,” escalating a sense of crisis in the region over the wayward regime’s relentless pursuit of missile and nuclear capabilities.
According to South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff, the missile was launched at around 6:57 a.m. Friday from the vicinity of Sunan in the capital Pyongyang.
It traveled an estimated 3,700 kilometers, the longest for a North Korean missile ever tested. It reached a maximum height of 770 kilometers.
People watch a TV report at Incheon Airport, Friday, after North Korea earlier in the day fired what appeared to be an intermediate-range missile over Japan that flew approximately 3,700 kilometers and fell into the North Pacific Ocean. (Yonhap)
Given the trajectory and apogee, the projectile appears to have been fired at a normal angle, Seoul officials said.
This means that the Pacific island of Guam, host to important US military assets, is well within its range. The distance from Pyongyang to Guam is about 3,350 kilometers.
Officials and experts here presumed the projectile to be the intermediate-range ballistic missile Hwasong-12, with which Pyongyang last month threatened to attack Guam. Pyongyang fired a Hwasong-12 on Aug. 27, which also flew over Japan. The earlier launch had a flight distance of 2,700 kilometers and a maximum altitude of 550 kilometers.
The US said it appears to be an IRBM, while Japan did not rule out of an intercontinental ballistic missile. The North in July test-fired two missiles that it claimed to be its first ICBMs. On Sept. 3, the Kim Jong-un regime conducted its sixth and largest nuclear weapons test.
Hours after the launch, Pyongyang warned of even stronger actions against the United States.
“If the US continues to walk on the current course, we will take stronger actions for our self-defense,” the Rodong Sinmun mouthpiece of the ruling party said in a commentary.
“The US should face up to a grim reality and make a decision to give up its hostile policy toward Pyongyang. It should make a wise decision to detach itself from issues on the Korean Peninsula,” it added.
South Korea responded to the provocation with its own launches, but one of the missiles nose-dived in the sea shortly after liftoff.
President Moon Jae-in, presiding over a National Security Council meeting at around 8 a.m., issued a strong message of condemnation. He said if the North continues to act this way, dialogue is impossible.
The UN Security Council scheduled an emergency closed-door meeting to be held Friday afternoon in New York. US President Donald Trump has not commented yet.
China vowed to “fully” and “strictly” carry out UN Security Council-approved sanctions, denouncing the North‘s missile provocation as a violation of UN resolutions.
“China objects to the North’s move to launch missiles by using ballistic technology in violation of UNSC resolutions,” China‘s Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said at a regular press briefing.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe strongly denounced the missile launch, which came a day after the communist regime threatened to “sink” it with nuclear weapons.
“North Korea should understand that there will be no bright future if it continues to follow the path like this,” Abe told reporters shortly after returning from his trip to India.
In Seoul, President Moon warned that with defiance and provocations, the North will earn only complete isolation. He also ordered the beefing up of Seoul’s military preparedness, particularly to counter potential new types of threats from the North such as electromagnetic pulse and biological weapons.
“Flouting the international community’s condemnations and warnings and the UN Security Council resolution, North Korea again fired a ballistic missile,” Moon said. “I sternly condemn and express anger at this series of provocations by the North.”
The Seoul government, however, said its plan, unveiled a day earlier, for an $8 million aid package for infants and pregnant women in the North, will not be affected by the latest provocation.
Seoul’s Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha held talks over the phone with US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Kono to discuss countermeasures.
The three nations’ top nuclear envoys — South Korea’s Kim Hong-kyun, Joseph Yun of the US and Kenji Kanasugi of Japan — also spoke on the phone, vowing a strong response.
She is sitting near the stage at the FIFA Player of the Year awards in London. All of the superstars of world football are there. Literally billions of dollars and pounds and euros of talent.
Then Kerr sees him. He’s sitting in the front row: Cristiano Ronaldo, the Real Madrid genius considered by many to be the best player in the world. She’s adored him from his days at Manchester United, which she religiously supports.
“I’d be lying if I said I wouldn’t be nervous – he’s such an idol for me,” says Kerr, the Matildas striker. “I’ve grown up watching him. That’s someone I aspire to be. I call him the insurance policy: someone you can always count on. He scores a goal all the time. I would love to be that player who walks on the field and your teammates know you’re going to score and be the best player you can be.”
Kerr, 24, is fast becoming that player. She’s on a shortlist of 10 for the women’s player of the year award. That will be cut down next week to three players. She’s every chance of being one of those and, if so, she’ll be rubbing shoulders with a tuxedoed Ronaldo on October 23.
She has a story to tell. Growing up in Fremantle, Kerr didn’t want to be a soccer player. She wanted to play Aussie Rules for the West Coast Eagles. “I thought they would change the rules so I could play [with the men],” she laughs. “I had no idea that I couldn’t.”
Indeed, the AFL has been throwing significant money at her in the last 18 months to swap codes from football to their newly created women’s league.
“No interest,” she says, shaking her head. “I’ve said it a million times: no amount of money could buy an Olympics experience, a World Cup experience. We competed in Rio last year and it was surreal.”
Sam Kerr performs her trademark backflip after scoring a goal against Japan at the Tournament of Nations. Photo: Sean M. Haffey
Kerr has been in the national side since she was 15 but still feels uncomfortable with the attention she’s been receiving in recent times after dominating last month’s Tournament of Nations, which the Matildas won after a 6-1 win over Brazil in Los Angeles. On Saturday afternoon, they play Brazil at a sold-out Pepper Stadium in Penrith and again on Tuesday in Newcastle.
Kerr’s electric style, whether it’s for her country, Perth Glory in the national league or Sky Blue FC in the US, makes her easy to watch.
Sam Kerr is on a shortlist of 10 for the women’s player of the year award. Photo: Louise Kennerley
But it’s her signature backflip celebrations after scoring a goal that she’s become famous for. She scored three goals against Japan in the US tournament but it was her backflip that kept being replayed for days.
“Are you the girl who does the backflip?” she was asked recently while having breakfast.
“Yeah,” she replied.
“Can you do it now?”
“No, I’m at breakfast.”
Says Kerr: “Sometimes the emotions get the better of me and that’s what comes out. It’s kinda become my thing. I actually stuffed it up in a Matildas game once and landed on my head. The coach wasn’t happy about that. It’s produced some good photos and media for the team. Maybe if I score against Brazil in front of 17,000 Aussies, it might come out.”
Sitting in the stands will be her 34-year-old brother, Daniel, the brilliant West Coast Eagles footballer whose 220-game AFL career and life in retirement has been pockmarked by incidents involving drugs, alcohol and violence.
Kerr didn’t speak to him for two years – “tough love,” she calls it – as he turned his life around. He now cares for his three daughters and helps indigenous children through his foundation.
“I was the proud sister,” she says. “It was the coolest thing to have a brother who played in the AFL. If you know my brother you’d know [trouble] was always going to happen because he’s such a firecracker. People could say that about me. I’m like my brother a lot because we’re passionate about what we do. We feel so strongly about what we believe in.
“My brother didn’t think of his afterlife [when he retired]. He didn’t think the day would come when he had to get a job. He broke up with his wife … It’s just about being more mature with how you deal with things. He didn’t deal with things in the best way. He went away from his family and support group. He had so much support around him and he turned it all away. Mum and Dad were fighting that battle, trying to get him back on track. My relationship with him was really important. Sometimes, when you lose something really important to you, you realise what you’re missing … He came back around and we’re closer than ever.”
As a youngster, though, Kerr didn’t want to be like her brother. She wanted to be Ashley Sampi, the spring-heeled West Coast player who in his day would launch himself above the pack to take spectacular marks.
“He took a screamer one day against the Demons,” she says enthusiastically. “He just flew. I would put all the fitness balls in our lounge-room in a row and bounce off them and take Ashley Sampi grabs. The commentators would scream, ‘Ashley Saaaampi!’ I used to be Ashley Sampi.”
Then Kerr turned 12 and she realised she could not longer be Ashley Sampi and needed to change codes. “Playing with the boys became too rough,” she says.
She turned to football, immediately slotted up front at striker and three years later was trotting out for the senior national side.
“We got spanked 5-1 that night against Italy in Canberra,” she recalls. “When I look back now, I had no idea what I was getting myself into. I didn’t grow up following the Matildas so I didn’t know what the opportunities could be.”
In that same year, playing for Perth Glory against Sydney FC, she noticed the opposition goalkeeper off her line and then had the audacity to take a shot from halfway, lobbing it over the keeper’s head for the goal.
It was voted the W-League’s goal of the year. She was also voted players’ player. At 16.
“Ah, that goal,” she says. “I was a young kid. I think that was the only goal I scored that year. I tried to You Tube it the other day but I can’t find it.”
Her career has been on an upward trajectory ever since. She’s a headline act in the US league and lives on the Jersey Shore, rarely venturing to Manhattan like her teammates because she doesn’t feel comfortable in a big city. Jersey Shore, she says, is just like Perth.
As Kerr’s star rises, so does that of the Matildas.
“This is my eighth year in the national team,” she says. “They’re like family. I’ve known all these people for half my life pretty much. We’re really starting to get exposure now. All the hard work we’ve done over the years is really starting to pay off. Although I don’t like the attention. Someone recognised me at the airport the other day. I don’t think anyone likes talking about themselves.”