South Korea's Lotte shuts 23 stores in China amid political row

South Korea’s retail giant Lotte Group said on Monday (6 March) that it has closed nearly two dozen retail stores in China after inspections by the Chinese authorities, according to Reuters.

The closures include 23 of its China supermarket stores reaching from Dandong on China's North Korean border to the wealthy east coast and southern Changzhou.

A Lotte Mart spokesperson could not provide further details, but anonymous workers at three stores said the closures were temporary and fire-safety related.

This came after the conglomerate agreed to provide land for installing the US Terminal High Altitude Area Defence (THAAD) system in response to missile threat from North Korea last week.

The political controversy has been heating up into a large-scale tension across the country, as the Chinese public is protesting outside Lotte stores and calling for a boycott of South Korean goods and services.

The Chinese government has also given travel agencies in Beijing verbal instructions to suspend sales of all travel packages, both online and offline, to South Korea, according to industry sources in China.

Lotte Mart had 115 stores in China as of January contributing to group sales there of over 3 trillion won ($2.6 billion) in 2015.