Lotte Group founder and Honorary Chairman Shin Kyuk-ho passed away on Sunday, closing the era of the first-generation of South Korean entrepreneurs, who led the stellar growth of South Korea. Along the likes of Hyundai’s Chung Ju-yung, Samsung’s Lee Byung-chul, LG’s Koo In-hwoi, and SK’s Chey Jong-hyun, the late business tycoon created something from nothing with his entrepreneurship.
Shin moved to Japan at the age of 21 with only 83 Japanese yen in his pocket, founded Lotte with 10 employees and started a gum business. With South Korea and Japan normalizing their diplomatic relations, Shin had a chance to make investments in his home country. Shin came back to South Korea in 1967 and founded Lotte Confectionery. He went on to found Lotte Hotel and Lotte Shopping, and acquire Honam Petrochemical Corp. As of now, Lotte Group has 95 affiliates and revenue of over 100 trillion won. Shin refused to be naturalized and lived and died as a Korean. His contribution to adding domestic jobs and improving the quality of the distribution and tourism industries should be highly appreciated.
The first-generation entrepreneurs, including Shin, lived in times, when the country did not have the capital or technology. Nevertheless, they managed to pioneer new areas and overcome difficulties with their passion and perseverance. They built businesses from scratch in a variety of fields, such as electronics, automobile, shipbuilding, heavy machinery, chemicals, textile, construction, and distribution, which served as the engine for the country’s rapid growth. The South Korean government gave full support to these businesses, helping them create a framework for the domestic industries and lay the foundation for national development.
The Korean economy, however, has lost vitality these days and is slipping into a recession. We ended up being grateful that the country’s economic growth does not fall below the 2% mark. We cannot blame it on low birth rate, aging society, and the global economy anymore. We are not in a position to say that this is just a fatigue phenomenon, caused by the country’s long-term growth. This is why, more than ever before, we need entrepreneurship that does not fear failures. We need more young entrepreneurs who are not afraid of trying new things and will grow into business tycoons like the first-generation entrepreneurs. The country and society should create an atmosphere that encourage those young entrepreneurs.