A Chinese large-scale boycott of South Korea’s Lotte Group (乐天集团) is in full swing since the retail giant agreed to provide land to the controversial THAAD (萨德) anti-missile system on Monday.
The American THAAD (Terminal High Altitude Area Defence) system will be placed on grounds that are part of a golf course owned by the Lotte Group in Seongju.
Chinese state media have responded with anger to the deal, as THAAD is perceived as a threat to China’s security. The deployment of the missile system comes at a time of growing nuclear threat from Pyongyang.
The Lotte conglomerate engages in diverse industries in China, including candy manufacturing, entertainment, beverages, and more. In China, Lotte has more than 80 ‘Lotte Mart’ (乐天玛特) supermarkets.
The brand Lotte (乐天) has been a top trending topic on Chinese social media over the past week. Its Chinese site was hacked one day after it signed the deal for the placement of the defense system on its land.
WEILONG’S ‘PATRIOTIC’ HOT STICKS
“I will never eat spicy snacks by any other brand than Weilong”
On Wednesday, Chinese food product brand Weilong (@卫龙食品), that produces ‘hot stick’ (辣条) snacks, announced on its Weibo account that it would no longer supply its products to Lotte supermarkets nationwide, and that it would cancel any future cooperations.
As a consequence, shelves ran empty of Weilong products at Lotte supermarkets; the pictures were shared thousands of times on Weibo, where netizens praised Weilong’s patriotism.
Other brands followed and showed their support on Weibo by replying on the Weilong announcement. Taodo snacks (@淘豆) replied to Weilong that it had also taken all Lotte products out of its website.
For Weilong, the boycott turned out to be a smart marketing strategy, as the brand is now greatly gaining in popularity because of it. Many netizens state they will buy and eat Weilong hot sticks today as a patriotic act to show their support of the boycott.
“I will never eat spicy snacks by any other brand than Weilong,” (“以后辣条 我只吃卫龙”) many netizens say.
Commenters describe the Weilong brand as “loyal”, “genuine”, and declare Weilong’s “hot sticks” as the “national hot snack” or the “nation-loving hot sticks” (爱国辣条).
“Is this still a rational way to show your patriotism?”
The majority of Weibo netizens fully support the boycott campaign, saying: “China strikes back! Fully boycott Lotte!”
They swear not to buy any more Lotte products, and some people post pictures of their broken Lotte customer cards.
There are also people who have taken their protest to the streets, such as in Yancheng in Jiangsu, where they call for a boycott of Lotte supermarkets.
But some netizens also question the boycott. “Is this still a rational way to show your patriotism?”, one Weibo user asks.
“Do you all even understand what THAAD (萨德) actually is?”, another person wonders.
Other people also ask why the Lotte Group is targeted instead of American companies. “Why don’t we boycott General Motors or Ford? Isn’t THAAD American?”, they say.
But for Chinese companies, following the Lotte boycott campaign seems like the right choice to improve their brand image. Electronics brand Pisen writes: “Brother Weilong has set the right example for us. As another national business, Pisen salutes you!” (“卫龙兄弟，好样的。同为民族企业，品胜为你点个大赞”).
In the meantime, Chinese official newspaper People’s Daily has also praised Weilong for boycotting Lotte. A post dedicated to the event on Weibo has now been shared over 19000 times.
The heightened popularity of Weilong snacks is likely to continue for some time to come. “Of course I will choose to eat Weilong Hot Sticks!”, many people say. Snacking away has never felt more noble.
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