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How Lotte founder Shin Kyuk-ho grew a chewing gum firm into corporate empire

How Lotte founder Shin Kyuk-ho grew a chewing gum firm into corporate empire

Lotte Group Founder Shin Kyuk-ho arrives for a trial at a court in Seoul, South Korea, March 20, 2017. REUTERS/Kim Hong-Ji

Shin Kyuk-ho, the founder of South Korean conglomerate Lotte, died on Sunday (Jan 19). He was 97 years old.

Shin had been hospitalised in Seoul and died at about 4.30pm, Lotte Group said in a statement.

The last of a generation of businessmen who built up South Korea's family-run chaebols, Shin built Lotte into South Korea's fifth-largest chaebol, trailing the likes of Samsung and Hyundai.

His assets were estimated at well over 1 trillion won (US$860 million), South Korean news agency Yonhap reported.

Here's more about the late businessman:


Shin Kyuk-ho was born in the early 1920s in Ulsan, South Korea. At the age of 18, he smuggled himself aboard a ship as a stowaway to go to Japan, where he was known by the name Takeo Shigemitsu.

He then opened his first business in Tokyo in 1942, a factory producing rice cookers. He borrowed ¥60,000 for the venture, but it was later destroyed in an air raid.

After taking out another loan, he set up a plant producing soap and facial creams, which turned out to be successful.

READ: Founder of South Korean retail giant Lotte dies at 97

HE STARTED LOTTE IN 1948                                                                           

Shin established a lab developing chewing gum and established the candy firm Lotte, named after a character in Goethe’s novel The Sorrows of Young Werther.

Lotte Group returned home to South Korea in 1966.

Since then, it has expanded into businesses in industries such as food, retail, financial services, construction, hotels, entertainment, electronics and publishing.

It has more than 90 subsidiaries and is counted with Samsung, Hyundai Motor, SK and LG groups as one of largest business groups in the country.


Shin has four children with three women – two daughters and two sons.

His first wife, a Korean, died in 1951 after giving birth to a daughter.

Shin has two sons with his second wife, who is Japanese.

The two, Dong-Joo and Dong-Bin, were involved in a feud over succession at the group. Both accused the other of mismanagement, personality flaws and manipulating their aged father.

The younger Dong-bin eventually took over.

Shin's mistress, Seo Mi-Kyung, 39 years his junior, won a Miss Lotte beauty pageant in 1997.

Their relationship produced a daughter - and Seo disappeared from public view, only resurfacing as a result of a scandal.


In 2017, Shin was convicted of embezzling from the firm to benefit his relatives. He nearly went to jail but was allowed to remain free on health grounds.

Prosecutors accused him and his son Dong-bin of causing 77.8 billion won (US$72 million) in damages to the group by renting out Lotte Cinema concessions at discounted rates to the founder’s eldest daughter and his mistress, Seo.

His elder daughter was given two years. Seo and Dong-Bin were given suspended terms, while Dong-Joo was cleared.

Source: CNA/agencies/ga(hm)


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