Lotte Group founder Shin Kyuk-ho rushed his family out of Japan shortly after the earthquake hit and doesn’t appear to be in a hurry to return. / Korea Times file
By Kang Seung-woo
Lotte Department Store was confirmed on Friday to have cancelled a controversial promotional event. But discontent still lingers over the manner the outfit opted to announce its decision.
According to a mass email sent to customers, the department store was to pick two couples among those who make a purchase between March 25 and 31 and award a free trip to Japan to see the cherry blossoms.
The promotional event caused a backlash because Lotte Group founder Shin Kyuk-ho and his family reportedly left Japan for Korea this month with just Shin Dong-joo, the eldest son and vice president of Lotte Japan, remaining there.
Critics claimed that one of Korea’s largest conglomerates is set to send its customers to the disaster-stricken country, which even its owner’s family members do not want to stay.
A deadly earthquake accompanied by a tsunami hit Japan hard on March 11 and the crippled nuclear plants in Fukushima have been releasing large amounts of radioactive materials to cause people to flee the area.
In the face of rising criticism, Lotte eventually called off the promotion but the group came under fire once again because it did not send follow-up messages notifying the cancellation of the event.
“When I got the mail, I said ‘Are you kidding?’” said a customer, who did not want to be identified. “Watch TV! There is a whole lot of bad news about Japan and growing fears over radiation exposure. Who would dare to go there?”
Learning that the scheme was already jettisoned, she got angrier.
“I did not know that the event was cancelled until today because there had not been any more emails. I don’t like the way Lotte dealt with the whole things with the Japan trip,” she said.
“It is a pity that despite the founder’s quick evacuation from Japan, Lotte was not as quick in dealing with the customer event.”
Lotte had not posted any notice on its website as of Friday afternoon, but instead, started informing people of the promotion’s cancellation on fliers at each of its branches from the first day of the event, while posting a notice inside.
When contacted, Lotte officials contended their good intention was misunderstood.
“We had planned the event and sent the mass email before the quake occurred in Japan. However, due to the worst quake in Japan’s history, we had to call it off,” said an official of the department store.
Regarding the follow-up notification on the cancellation of the event, the official said that he believed that fliers would be a more efficient way to let customers know it.