Lotte Group founder Shin Kyuk-ho dies at Seoul aged 97

Shin Kyuk-ho started manufacturing chewing-gum in 1948 in Japan and turned the family business into the fifth largest conglomerate in South Korea

One of the most iconic chewing-gum brands Lotte Group lost its founder Shin Kyuk-ho on Sunday. Shin, who was 97, was suffering from several age-related ailments and was hospitalized in Seoul, South Korea, where he died at 4.29 pm, read a statement from Lotte Group.

Shin started a small business of manufacturing chewing gum in Japan and turned it into the fifth largest South Korean multinational company. Shin was also the last of the South Korean entrepreneurs who started a family business and successfully turned it into a conglomerate.

The journey of Shin Kyuk-ho

Shin Kyuk-ho
Lotte Group founder Shin Kyuk-ho YouTube Grab

Shin a wartime migrant to Japan, who started making chewing-gum in 1948. The eldest of 10 children, Shin shifted to Japan during the World War II in 1942 almost empty handed. Shin was born in the Korean peninsula, which was under Japanese occupation and control during that time.

Shin married a Japanese woman and started manufacturing chewing-gum as a small family business. He later returned to his country South Korea and collaborated with the government in the 1960s to rebuild the war-torn country.

The country's rapid industrialization saw Lotte, along with other prominent names like Samsung and Hyundai, turned the family-run industrial group, also known as chaebol, into the fifth largest conglomerate in South Korea.

The rise of Shin Kyuk-ho and Lotte Group

Lotte Group
Lotte Group YouTube Grab

Shin studied chemistry in Japan and later by investing his savings and delivering milk, he started his family business. Loote chewing-gum became popular with the US soldiers who were posted in Japan at that time. The brand started gaining popularity and by 1963, Shin has more than 3,000 employees. He expanded the business as a confectionery brand and later ventured into baseball and also advertising.

He returned to South Korea in 1967 and founded the Lotte Group, which today is one of the most iconic chewing-gum brands. Shin till the end of his life used to spend half the year in Japan and the rest in South Korea.

However, a lot has happened into the family business over the years. Today, Lotte has 95 brands ranging from petrochemicals to giant baseballs to department store. Shin's declining health saw his younger son Shin Dong-bin take over the reign of the business amid a family feud.

In 2016, government investigations revealed fraud by family members. This resulted in the arrest of the Shin's daughter on charges of misappropriation, followed by his son Shin Dong-bin's imprisonment over charges of bribery. Lotte has also in the past faced backlash from South Koreans for its links with Japan when ties between the two countries worsened, that saw people boycotting its products.

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