Lotte Group founder Shin Kyuk-ho died of old age on Jan. 19. Starting with the chewing gum business in Japan, Shin expanded his business in both Korea and Japan, raising Lotte Group to become the fifth-largest business conglomerate in Korea and a conglomerate in the food, distribution, tourism and petrochemical sectors.
Shin was born in 1921 in Ulsan, South Gyeongsang Province, as the first child of five sons and five daughters. He decided to stow away in a ship to Japan in 1941 during the Japanese colonial period and engaged in newspaper and milk delivery jobs while attending Waseda University for a chemical engineering major.
In 1944, he started the business by setting up an oil-making plant for shelves, but he suffered the ordeal of the factory being burnt down by a U.S. military plane during World War II.
Shin, who later entered the chewing gum business following soap and cosmetics, established Lotte in 1948. Shin explained that he wanted to create a company that is loved by customers like Charlotte, who was loved by everyone, for her novel "The Sorrows of Young Werther."
Since then, Lotte has made a huge success by making bubble gum, which was popular with the U.S. military in Japan, followed by making inroads into the chocolate, candy, biscuits, ice cream and soft drinks sectors.
After the establishment of diplomatic ties between Korea and Japan, Shin established Lotte Confectionery in 1967 and entered Korea as the road for investment in Korea opened. Lotte, which has since grown into the nation's largest food company, has expanded its business scope to tourism, construction and chemicals as well as food, distribution, including Lotte Hotel and Lotte Shopping, which has grown to become the fifth-largest conglomerate in the country.
The construction of the Lotte World Tower, the nation's tallest building, also began in 1987 when Shin purchased a site to build a skyscraper in Jamsil. The deceased received the Gold Tower Industrial Medal in 1995 for the first time in the tourism industry in recognition of his contribution to nurturing the tourism industry into a national strategic industry.
The deceased grew Lotte into the fifth-largest conglomerate in the country's business community, but the latter years were not easy. Lotte faced a major crisis in 2015 after a management dispute broke out between its eldest son Shin Dong-joo, former vice chairman of Lotte Holdings in Japan, and his second son Shin Dong-bin, chairman of Lotte Group.
Shin, who stood side by side with his eldest son Shin Dong-joo stepped down from the board position of Lotte Holdings in Japan, the holding company of Lotte Group in Korea and Japan, as well as from the board of directors of Korean affiliates.
Shin, who later revealed mental health problems amid a management feud, was sentenced to four years in prison and fined 3.5 billion won with his two sons for management irregularities in December 2017, but he was not arrested by court for health reasons.
The bereaved families include his wife, Hatsuko Shigemitsu, eldest daughter Shin Young-ja, chairman of the Lotte Scholarship Foundation, his eldest son Shin Dong-joo and second son Shin Dong-bin.