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S. Korean retail giants apply for duty-free licenses in Seoul

All News 17:31 October 04, 2016

By Kim Eun-jung

SEOUL, Oct. 4 (Yonhap) -- South Korea's top retailers on Tuesday submitted their bids for duty-free licenses in Seoul, with their proposed sites concentrated in the affluent Gangnam district.

The Korea Customs Service said it will pick four winners in December, which would raise the total number of duty-free outlets in the capital city to 13. The customs agency will issue two more in the southern port city of Busan and Gangwon Province.

The Korea Customs Service's Seoul branch accepts applications for duty-free licenses on Oct. 4, 2016. (Yonhap)

With one operational license assigned to smaller enterprises, the center of attention is on which of five major retailers will win the race to open three new shops.

Among them are Lotte Duty Free and SK Networks, which are seeking to reopen their stores that were shut down after losing their bids last year.

Lotte Duty Free, a unit of Lotte Group, said it applied for a license to resume operation of its outlet in Lotte World Tower in Jamsil, a 123-story skyscraper nearing completion.

Lotte World Tower's duty-free store has been closed since the end of June although it was the nation's third-largest with 380 billion won (US$342.8 million) in sales in 2015.

This photo provided by Lotte Group shows Lotte World Tower in the Jamsil district of Seoul. (Yonhap)

SK Networks said it submitted its bid to reopen its outlet in the Sheraton Grand Walkerhill Hotel in eastern Seoul, which posted 287.4 billion won in sales last year. Its operation ended at the end of May.

Shinsegae and HDC Shilla Duty Free joined the race following their successful bids to open new shops in downtown Seoul last year.

The Shinsegae Group said it proposed Central City, a mall complex consisting of Shinsegae Department Store, the JW Marriott Hotel, Express Bus Terminal and a movie theater located in Gangnam, to build a new duty-free store.

Shinsegae said the new outlet could create a synergy effect with its department store, which opened in August after nearly a year of renovation.

This photo, provided by the Shinsegae Group, shows the Shinsegae Department Store in southern Seoul. (Yonhap)

HDC Shilla Duty Free, a joint venture between Shilla Hotel and Hyundai Development, picked iPark Tower in Gangnam, one of the most expensive apartment complexes in Seoul, as the site to open its second duty-free shop, following the first in Yongsan.

Hyundai Department Store said it selected its branch in COEX Mall in the Gangnam district, Asia's largest underground shopping mall, to take advantage of rising travelers in the area. The Korea City Air Terminal, which offers an airline check-in service, is part of COEX.

Lee Dong-ho, the chief of Hyundai Department Store, submits an application for a duty-free license at the Korea Customs Service's Seoul branch on Oct. 4, 2016. (Yonhap)

The latest duty-free competition comes as the government tries to jack up stagnant domestic consumption in Asia's fourth-largest economy, as an influx of Chinese tourists has been a rare bright spot in the retail sector.


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