Amid rising diplomatic tension with China over Seoul’s decision to deploy the THAAD anti-missile defense system, Korea is facing challenges as an entertainment and shopping destination, the Korean Tourism Organization said today. The word comes on the heels of an editorial published by Chinese state media this weekend that warned Korean retail and entertainment giant Lotte Group that it is “playing with fire that could inflame regional relations.”
Lotte is Korea’s fifth-biggest conglomerate and owns Lotte Entertainment and Lotte Cinema, operating multiplexes at home and abroad. It also owns a golf course where a proposed deal is afoot to host the deployment of the U.S.’ Terminal High Altitude Area Defense.
China’s state-controlled Xinhua news agency warned that the proposed deployment “is a threat to regional security and stability, and Lotte Group is one decision away from becoming an accessory to the act.”
Further, stated Xinhua in its editorial, “The Lotte Group board of directors has yet to make its final decision on the land swap deal: Rightly so, they are playing with fire that could inflame regional relations.”
The warning from Beijing comes as diplomatic friction between it and Seoul have grown over the past several months. This summer there were reports (some conflicting) that Middle Kingdom gatekeepers had placed restrictions on Korean entertainment and entertainers in response to the talks surrounding THAAD.
China’s objections to THAAD are twofold. Xinhua wrote, “reacting to an arms threat with a threat of arms is not going to ease tensions on the Korean Peninsula, in fact it will only undermine the regional strategic balance.” It added that the installment, “poses a severe threat to China’s security interests, and could be used to monitor Chinese territory.”
Should Lotte agree to the land-swap, it “will hurt the Chinese people and the consequences could be severe,” Xinhua said.
While the Korean Tourism Organization pointed to growing discontent from short-stay visitors, according to the Yonhap news agency, Lotte’s business on the Chinese mainland would be negatively impacted by THAAD, says Xinhua. The company has over 150 retail branches in China as well as a number of cinemas.