South Korea closes hypermarket stores in China amid U.S. missile system backlash
A major South Korean conglomerate is closing numerous supermarket stores in China, reportedly after being caught in the middle of escalating tensions with the Asian country over the deployment of a controversial U.S. missile defense system.
South Korean media outlet The Investor reported that as part of a recent crackdown on the Lotte Group's stores, 39 Lotte Mart outlets out of 99 had suspended operations. Almost all of the stores are said to be located in Shanghai.
Website CNN Money reported the Lotte Group had agreed last week to hand over a golf course to the South Korean government to house the THAAD missile system, generating an angry response from China.
Chinese officials reportedly say the stores have been closed because they fail to comply with fire safety regulations. But the closures come just days after China's state news agency Xinhua warned that the decision to make land available for THAAD "could turn into a nightmare for Lotte."
China is South Korea's biggest trading partner, and accounts for about a quarter of its exports, according to CNN Money.