The Korea Customs Service (KCS) has today granted new licenses for downtown duty-free shops in Seoul and two other cities, as highlighted by local media reports.
Hyundai Department Store, Lotte Duty Free and Shinsegae, will operate three stores in Seoul’s Gangnam shopping district while Top City Corp secured the small and medium-sized enterprise license. Busan Duty Free secured the license for a shop in the Southern port city of Busan, while Alpensia will operate an outlet in Gangwon Province.
At one stage the announcement hung in the balance, as previously reported by DFNIonline, amid calls to cancel the selection process amid allegations of corruption involving South Korean president Park Geun-hye and long-time confidant Choi Soon-sil.
Today’s announcement is a reprieve for Lotte Duty Free, which can now re-open its Lotte World Tower store, having lost the license to travel-retail newcomer Doosan Cooperation (Doota Duty Free).
A Lotte statement forwarded to DFNIonline read: “Fortunately the 1,300 employees who had been waiting to return to work at the World Tower and been in deep anxiety can now do so. I would like to express my heartfelt gratitude to the jury members for their fair and objective examination to enhance the competitiveness of the Korean duty-free industry despite the big psychological burden.
“We are also grateful to all of our employees who have devoted themselves to the growth and development of Lotte Duty Free as a global duty-free enterprise for the past 36 years.
“Lotte Duty Free will do its best to faithfully fulfil the contents of the business plan submitted to the Korea Customs Service in the future. Through aggressive investment and development of Korean Wave content, we will be able to attract foreign tourists, create jobs and coexist with small and medium-sized enterprises, thereby fulfilling our social responsibilities and becoming a maturer company contributing to the local and national economy.
“Most of all Lotte Duty Free will do its best to open up the future of Korean tourism by raising the global competitiveness of the domestic tourism industry with greater responsibility.”
For SK Networks (Walkerhill Duty Free), which was also in the running, the announcement will be a bitter pill to swallow having lost its long-standing license in the Sheraton Grand Walkerhill Hotel, which it had held for around 25 years. HDC Shilla, which revealed to DFNIonline plans to expand its I’Park duty-free store, which opened last December, also lost out.
For Shinsegae Duty Free, the opportunity is there to continue its good work following the opening of the Myeongdong outlet in May having triumphed in the previous set of license awards.
See the January edition of DFNI for retailer reaction to this ground-breaking announcement.