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China is no dream land

Sept 18,2017
Lotte Mart, whose business in China was suspended since September last year after the parent group yielded a golf course to host the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (Thaad) system, is backing out of China even at the risk of losing nearly $3 billion worth of investment in the world’s second largest economy. Lotte Group announced that it was selling 112 grocery store outlets in China.

China has been relentless and childish in its revenge and power abuse to force Seoul to reverse the plan of installing the powerful U.S. missile shield in the region. Hyundai Motor, Kia Motors, and AmorePacific all have been heavily hurt by the state-led consumer boycott of Korean brands. The colossal market where Korean enterprises have high stakes could now bring down their businesses.

Many have urged the government to take stronger actions against Beijing’s menacing ways. One of the options raised was to take the matter to the World Trade Organization for arbitration.

Filing a WTO suit against a major stakeholder like China may not be easy. But Seoul must nevertheless make an attempt as it would have symbolic implications. China, lobbying hard to gain legitimate international recognition and a voice befitting its economic size, would lose face when it is accused of unfair and retaliatory action on companies of another state.

The trade minister indicated a WTO suit was one of the options the government was considering. But a day after the comment, the presidential office denied that Seoul was mulling a challenge at the WTO. Why it was casting away a perfectly good bargaining chip is incomprehensible.

The government is more or less condoning China’s bashing of Korea Inc. Korean companies are on their own to protect their business in China. Korean companies also must wake up from their delusions about the Chinese economy, which will never be free from the political influence of the Communist Party. Most foreign grocery names have failed in China because of the invisible hands that get in the way of fresh food supplies. China is no dream land.

JoongAng Ilbo, Sept. 16, Page 30