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South Korea: Mega Corporation Lotte Faces Nationwide Boycott

In South Korea, over two million small business owners have called for a nationwide boycott of products made by conglomerate Lotte Group starting July 16, 2012. This unprecedentedly large scale collective action, which was sparked by the corporation's discriminatory credit card policy, has spread like wildfire via social media.

Civic groups representing small business owners have released a statement [ko] accusing Lotte of repeated denial of their requests to remove its discriminative policy on credit card charges, which have been imposed unfairly on small retailers, and to follow the government's guidelines on protecting local livelihood.

Image of Lotte Mart, by Flickr User Diatherman (CC-BY-NC-SA 2.0)

Image of Lotte Mart, by Flickr User Diatherman (CC-BY-NC-SA 2.0)

Numerous South Korean users have expressed strong support for small retailers, owners of local restaurants, bars and ‘mom-and-pop’ (independent family owned) stores, and their uphill battle to protect their faltering livelihoods. One media even calls it [ko] a true fight of the 99 percent versus the top 1 percent.

In the Twittersphere, net users have encouraged each other to join the move by blacklisting Lotte's drinks, beverage and confectionary. @doax tweeted [ko]:

200만 자영업자가 생존권을 위해 ‘롯데'와의 전쟁을 선포했습니다. 처음처럼, 아사히 맥주, 스카치블루등을 주점에서 팔지 않기로 했고 아이시스, 펩시, 칠성, 실론티, 2%등은 동네 슈퍼에서 팔지 않기로 했다고. 저도 롯데 불매에 들어갑니다. 널리RT

Two million small business owners, for their survival, announced a war on Lotte. Bars will not be selling [following are names of Lotte's liquor brands] ‘Chum Churum (like the first time)', ‘Asahi beer', ‘Scotch Blue’ and small local supermarkets have decided not to sell [soft drinks] ‘Icisis', ‘Pepsi', ‘Chilsung', ‘Cylon Tea’ and '2 percent'. I have also joined a boycott of Lotte products. Please retweet this message.

@ilpyungdad calls the clash an all-out war [ko]:

200만 자영업자 롯데그룹 및 대형유통사와 전면전 돌입 [...] ‘먹는물’ 아닌 ‘인공전기분해 알칼리수'로 불법제조한 소주 처음처럼 불매, 불매!

This is a all-out war between two million small business owners and the huge retailers plus the Lotte group. I boycott (Lotte's) soju [Korean liquor] “Like the First Time” which is not made up of drinking water but alkaline water which has been artificially electrolyzed.

Just like other parts of the world, a handful of retail giants such as Lotte have dominated major sales channels in South Korea, and using their market clout have played unfair games with their small, powerless rivals. Twitter user @fdgag, explains [ko] why among many other corporations, Lotte is hated by so many:

유독 롯데가 ‘미운털'이 박힌 데는 이유가 있다. 롯데그룹은 대형마트 의무휴업 준수, 신용카드 수수료 체계 개편 등에 대한 요구를 모두 거부[...]

There are reasons why Lotte, specifically, has made it into people's blacklists. It has denied all requests to overhaul its credit card fee policy and keep mandatory days-off on weekends [the government has ordered giant discount malls to halt working on weekends in order to salvage profitability of small retailers. The measure took effect [ko] from April 22, 2012]

@seojuho rightly pointed out [ko]:

롯데의 골목상권 소탐대실…제품 불매운동 부메랑 http://durl.me/2t8u8i  오늘부터 중소상인들과의 공생을 거부하는 롯데제품 불매운동에 들어가는군요^^

Lotte has made a big loss in going after a small gain. And a boycott is a boomerang effect of their actions. http://durl.me/2t8u8i Starting today, we are boycotting Lotte for refusing to develop [peaceful] co-existence with small business owners.

Twitter influencer and journalist @welovehani revealed [ko] Lotte's business tactics in launching their new stores by minimizing the local community's backlash:

자영업자들이 롯데 불매에 들어갔습니다.환영합니다. 대학로 롯데슈퍼. 피자집으로 위장했다가 기습개점했고, 롯데슈퍼 원효점은 초밥집으로 위장했다기 기습개점했습니다. 파렴치한 영업으로 골목상권 다 죽이는 롯데입니다.

I welcome the news of small business owners’ boycott of Lotte's products. One Lotte store in Daehak-ro [the name of a street in capital Seoul]  made people believe someone was opening a pizza parlor. And later, it launched an ‘ambush’ opening. There is another Lotte supermarket in Wonhyo. It made a fake motion and started as a sushi place before suddenly revealing its true colors later. Lotte has been killing local economies with their shameless servile business tactics.

@otb_pax added [ko]:

서민 상권을 맘대로 침범한 롯데. 그야말로 도둑집단!” [...] 유통,제과,음료,주류,면세점등 롯데가 싹쓸이. 의무휴일,카드수수료등 마찰. 확산 규모가 갈수록 커질듯.

Lotte has encroached on the local economy. They are a group of robbers. They made a clean sweep in retail, confectionary, drinks, liquor and duty free shops. They have issues with workers taking mandatory holidays and their credit card fee policy created conflicts. This boycott will grow stronger.

@robandchace blamed Lotte [ko] for its lack of innovation when compared with other corporations who have been blamed on similar grounds:

롯데는 말이지 무늬만 대기업일뿐 삼성 엘지 현대 스크를 보고 무슨 생각을 할까 그 대기업들은 획신적인걸 개발하느라 밤낮을 개발에 집중할때 롯데는 어떻게하면 내국인들 피빨아 먹을까 이 생각만 하겠지?? 외화벌이 좀 해라 지역사회에 공헌 좀 하고.

Lotte looks like a corporation — from its facade. [But] what would Lotte feel like when watching other corporations such as Samsung, LG, Hyundai, SK and etc, who are busy making innovations? I believe Lotte is solely focused on sucking blood from its own people. They had better go and earn some foreign currency and try to make a bit of a contribution to the local community.
Image of Lotte World, Image by Flickr User ☺Yoshi☠(CC-BY 2.0)

Image of Lotte World, Image by Flickr User ☺Yoshi☠(CC-BY 2.0)

Blogger 봄비 explained [ko] another reason why the corporation has been criticized over the years.

국민의 여론과는 반대되는 정부를 내 편 만들기 일인자 롯데. [...] 촛불 시위 한창 할 때, 롯데 우유에서 수입 소고기 사업을 하겠다며 제 2 롯데월드 건축 문제와 함계 정부와 거래를 했지[...] 뒤에서 정부 가지고 로비해서는 다 자기편으로 끌여들어 경쟁사들과 선의의 경쟁을 하지 않는 롯데라는 거야.

Lotte is so good at making the government to take its side- no matter that it is so against the people's opinion. When the candle light vigil [against US beef import] was at its highest, Lotte made a deal with the government. [There is speculation that Lotte] in exchange for Lotte Milk's sales of US imported beef to Korean customers, had its construction plan for the 2nd Lotte World passed by the government. I believe Lotte, after making the government take care of its back with their lobbying, fends off competition.

Lotte claims to have played by the rules, although local media reports begs differ.

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