Lotte chairman clears uncertainties with Supreme Court ruling to uphold suspended sentence

18, Oct. 2019

SEOUL, AJU - South Korea's highest court upheld a suspended jail sentence for Lotte Group chairman Shin Dong-bin, clearing uncertainties over his future at a time when the fifth-largest conglomerate founded by a Korean-born businessman in Japan steps up the realignment of group structure to enhance governance.

In October 2017, Shin launched Lotte Corp. and secured firm group-wide control. The realignment of the group's structure would be completed after the holding company absorbed more affiliates and reduced its stake in three financial units by October this year to meet legal requirements.

However, Lotte's realignment was delayed in February last year when a district court in Seoul sentenced Shin to two years and six months in prison on charges of bribing Choi Soon-sil, the crony of South Korea's ousted ex-president Park Geun-hye. The Lotte chairman was found guilty of providing seven billion won ($5.9 million) to a foundation run by Choi in return for favors related to the license of a duty-free shop.

The chairman was released in October last year after an appeals court suspended his sentence for four years, saying he had no other option to accept Park's request for the fear of being disadvantaged in business activities.

After a turbulent period in 2018, Lotte stepped up its presence mainly in Southeast Asia to make up for its failure in China that forced a strategic change in the group's overall business. “We are sorry for having caused so much concern,” Lotte's holding company said in a statement on Thursday. “We will humbly take care of worries and concerns of many people and make efforts to become a trusted company by contributing to the nation and society.”