Founder of the Lotte Group, South Korea's biggest retailer, has died, aged 97. Shin Kyuk-ho was a wartime migrant who returned home to South Korea and turned a little known chewing gum maker into the Lotte Group. Shin had been hospitalised in Seoul to get treatment for age-related complications when he passed away at around 4:00 pm.
Shin was among the last generation of entrepreneurs who were responsible for the 'Miracle on the Han River', which referred to the rapid industrialization of a war-torn South Korea's economy. The entrepreneurs who had teamed up with the government in the 1960s to make the miracle happen were called the chaebol. These included Samsung and Hyundai as well as the Lotte Group.
Lotte Group is the country's fifth-largest chaebol in terms of assets and is a combination of 95 companies consisting of department stores to petrochemicals and the Lotte Giants baseball team in the southeastern city of Busan. As Shin's health deteriorated over the years, he was given a ceremonial role in the Lotto Group, a decision that was pushed through by his youngest son, Shin Dong-bin.
Shin Dong-Bin eventually took over the Lotte Group amidst a family feud that captivated the nation. In 2016, Korean prosecutors began an investigation that led to the indictment of several members of the Shin family. Shin's first daughter was even arrested on embezzlement charges. Even Shin Dong-bin was jailed on bribery charges
Shin Kyuk-ho was born on October 4, 1922, in the town of Ulsan located in the southeast coast of the Korean Peninsula which was at that time under Japanese occupation. In 1942 Shin left Korea in an attempt to find better opportunities in Japan.
In 1947 Shin began manufacturing Lotte chewing gum that became very popular with the US soldiers stationed in Japan. By 1963, Shin had built a confectionary company that employed close to 3,000 people according to Lotte company history. Shin returned to Korea in 1967 after relations between the two countries were normalised and set up a candy company that later became the Lotte Group.