Overseas travel bans will be lifted probably next week for Lotte Group chairman Shin Dong-bin and SK Group chairman Chey Tae-won who were investigated over the Choi Soon-sil scandal.
"At present, there is no need to extend the overseas travel bans on chairmen Shin Dong-bin and Chey Tae-won," said an official of the prosecution on March 7
According to the Immigration Control Act, the minister of justice enforces an overseas travel ban after receiving a request for it from an investigating agency and the term of validity is one month. "If there is no request for an extension from an investigation agency, the ban will be canceled automatically if the period expires," explained an official at the Ministry of Justice.
Earlier, the Special Prosecution Team banned the heads of the Samsung, Lotte, and SK Groups in connection with their groups’ donations to the Mir K Sports Foundation from the end of last year to the beginning of this year. It was reported that the team extended the overseas travel bans on the chairmen of large corporate groups but had not made any further extension of the ban since mid-February. .
The moves of the Korean business world are accelerating as it was reported that the ban on the departure of major business leaders including chairman Shin Dong-bin will be lifted soon. The Lotte Group showed that it was much relieved. "We have not yet been notified by the Ministry of Justice. We will be able to deal with a lot of management issues, if it is true that the ban will be abolished," a representative of the Lotte Group.
Since last year, the overseas travel ban on chairman Shin has been hampering the business activities of the Lotte Group for a long time as the ban has prevented chairman Shin from attending meetings of Japanese Lotte Holdings' board of directors. The ban also has halted the chairman’s global business activities to meet overseas business leaders and global businesspeople through business trips abroad.
In particular, the Lotte Group is suffering from recent retaliation over the THAAD by Chinese authorities. 23 affiliates including Lotte Mart that have entered the Chinese market have been shut down due to minor violations and massive boycotts have been going on in many parts of China. The boycotts include radical acts such as shredding Lotte products with heavy equipment. According to the Lotte Group, they will not make any comments on chairman Shin’s visit to China, which has been the focal point of people’s attention.
SK chairman Chey Tae-won, who has also been banned from leaving the country for a long time, is expected to restart his global management such as the group’s business in China. Chairman Chey is expected to seek a breakthrough in the group’s business in China by attending the Boao Forum in China called an "Asian version" of the Davos Forum, which will be held at the end of this month. SK has been suffering from a delay in its global business as chairman Chey was banned from leaving the country for more than 70 days since December 16 of last year.
Above all, the lift of the ban on the SK Group chairman is expected to be good news for the group’s big projects in China which has been faltering or slowing down. In 2006, Choi announced his 'China Insider' initiative which aims to build a second SK Group in China and has been operating global management with the group’s Chinese business as a top priority.
However, its Chinese business hit a snag as the SK Group’s butanediol joint project with Sinopec, China's state-run petrochemical company, was abruptly scratched off at the end of last year, and a Swiss company finally took over a stake in Shanghai Secco, a chemical company pursued by SK Innovation. Also, a project to build an electric car battery plant, which is under the joint development by the SK Group and Beijing Automobile among others, is put on hold due to the Chinese government's tightening regulations.