Undeterred by relentless bashing at home and abroad, South Korea's fifth-largest conglomerate, Lotte Group, will push ahead with a grand opening ceremony for its new high-rise landmark in early April with fireworks, concerts and other festive activities.
The group said the night sky of Seoul would be lit up with about 30,000 fireworks on the eve of the April 3 opening of the Lotte World Tower, a new 123-story shopping and living tower complex in southern Seoul.
The opening comes at the height of a row between Beijing and Seoul over the installation of an advanced US missile shield. China has taken a series of retaliatory steps, arguing the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system would "seriously" hurt strategic interests of China and other countries as well as the security balance in Northeast Asia.
Lotte has been the target of a Chinese onslaught since the retail giant pushed ahead with a land swap deal to let US troops install a THAAD battery in its golf course southeast of Seoul. Lotte's duty-free business at home suffered a setback as it heavily depends on Chinese consumers and tourists.
The THAAD dispute has also affected Lotte's attempt to woo rich Chinese investors into the tower's expensive residential space. Up for sale are 223 residential units of up to 990 square meters between the 42nd and 71st floor.
At home, Lotte has been plagued by a prolonged probe. State prosecutors indicted Lotte's ailing founder Shin Kyuk-ho, two sons, a daughter, and his common-law wife in October last year. They stood trial on Monday on charges of alleged tax evasion, embezzlement, and other irregularities.
The probe has tarnished Lotte's reputation but Lotte Corp. CEO Park Hyun-chul remained confident saying the tower's real-estate sales would be okay because the group has tried to attract rich domestic people as well as investors from the United States, the Middle East and Hong Kong.
"Skyscrapers like the the Lotte World Tower will become a globally famous tourist destination in themselves," Lee told reporters.
The enclosed deck on top of the 555-meter-tall tower will be open to the public this week. Lotte said it would be the world's third tallest observation deck after Shanghai Tower and Burj Khalifa in Dubai. Lotte's deck called "Seoul Sky" is 500 meters off the ground and comprised of multiple facilities from the 117th floor to house about 900 people per hour at the same time. The bottom of the 118th floor is glass.
A vertical international marathon race will be held for the first time in South Korea to mark the opening of the tower which was built as a new high-rise landmark representing South Korea's economic prosperity.
Signiel Seoul, a six-star hotel with 235 rooms, will be located on the 76th and 101st floor. The charge for a one-night stay in the royal sweet room on the 100th floor stands at 20 million won, the highest in South Korea.
The tower is the world's fifth-tallest building after the Burj Khalifa in Dubai, the Shanghai Tower, the Makkah Royal Clock Tower Hotel in Saudi Arabia and One World Trade Center in New York, the company said.
Lim Chang-won = email@example.com