Lotte Group founder Shin Kyuk-ho/Courtesy of Lotte Group

Last first-generation tycoon leaves big legacy

Lotte Group founder Shin Kyuk-ho passed away of chronic diseases Sunday at the age of 98, the country’s No. 5 conglomerate announced in a statement.

Lotte Honorary Chairman Shin has left great legacy as he grew a chewing-gum maker to one of the country’s biggest business empire comparable to Samsung and Hyundai.

Shin was born in 1921 at the country’s southeastern port city Ulsan. At the age of 20, he crossed the East Sea to Japan, which ruled the country.

He started his business in 1944 but his plants broke down during World War II. But he rebounded by launching new ventures in such areas as foods and beverages to chalk up a success.

And the entrepreneur did not forget his roots. As soon as Seoul and Tokyo normalize their ties again in 1965, Shin waded into his home country to embark on new businesses.

On top of foods and beverages, he made inroads into such industries as retail, chemistry and tourism. In particular, he built hotels and department stores to help boost South Korean economy.

Such efforts led to handsome results as Lotte has grown into the country’s fifth-largest conglomerate, chasing Samsung, Hyundai, SK, and LG.

However, his life was not just a bed of roses as thorns were also a part of it. In particular, his late life was marred by sibling feuds between his two sons of Lotte Chairman Shin Dong-bin and his elder brother Shin Dong-joo.

While founder Shin suffered from many diseases including dementia, the two were caught in feuds over the control of Lotte.

The case ended up in court and founder Shin was almost put behind the bars in late 2017 as he was sentenced to four years in prison with a fine of 3.5 billion won ($3 million). But the court ordered not to imprison him citing his poor health.

On top of the two sons, he was survived by his Japanese wife and a daughter. Shin also had a common-law marriage with a former beauty pageant winner to have a daughter.