SPC Group Chairman Hur Young-in/Courtesy of SPC Group

Korea’s ‘bread king’ faces mixed results in court decisions

Over the past two months, SPC Group Chairman Hur Young-in faced mixed results in lawsuits related to him and his group, Korea’s largest maker of food and confectionary products.

One is good news, and the other is bad one. And the two are expected to greatly affect the Seoul-based conglomerate that has such brands as Paris Baguette, Paris Croissant, and Caffe Pascucci.

In early January, Hur with a moniker of “Korea’s bread king” ran the risk of being imprisoned as the Seoul High Court was set to make a verdict on the 70-year-old entrepreneur.

In late 2018, a Seoul district court convicted him of breach of duty, but he escaped jail time as the sentence was suspended. He allegedly offered the trademark of Paris Croissant to his wife so that she can earn tens of millions of dollars in loyalty incomes.

To the relief of Hur, however, the appellate court acquitted him.

The litigation is not done yet as the prosecution instantly appealed. The Supreme Court will make its decision, possibly later this year.

Unlike the favorable result in the Korean court, SPC struggled in the Chinese court, which prevented the Seoul-based company from using its brand Paris Baguette in the world’s most populous country.

SPC tapped into the Chinese market in 2004 under the brand of Paris Baguette to chalk up fast growth there.

The Beijing court noted late last year that the name of Paris Baguette and its logo with an Eiffel Tower might make people misunderstand the origin of the brand.

The verdict is feared to deal a severe blow to the Chinese business of SPC.

Worse, the company asked a Korean newspaper to take out news articles related to the Chinese court’s decision, offering more than $400,000 as advertisement money.

The attempt angered both the newspaper’s reporters and many people.

The result: the head of the media outlet had to resign, but none did so in SPC.

It remains to be seen how Chairman Hur will deal with the two issues.