Shin Yoo-yeol, front row second from left, head of Lotte Corp.'s future growth office, listens to Lotte Innovate officials during CES 2024 in Las Vegas in this Jan. 10 file photo. Courtesy of Lotte Innovate

Speculation is growing that Lotte Group Chairman Shin Dong-bin’s oldest son, Shin Yoo-yeol, also known by his Japanese name, Satoshi Shigemitsu, may give up his Japanese citizenship this year to be naturalized as a Korean citizen, as he turned 38 years old on Saturday, according to industry officials, Sunday. At this age, one can acquire Korean citizenship regardless of the completion of military service.The heir apparent, who currently assumes executive positions at Lotte’s holding company and its health care subsidiary, was born in London in 1986 and grew up in Tokyo. After joining Lotte in 2020, he has worked for his father’s company in Korea and Japan.Due to his frequent attendance at the conglomerate’s important events recently, he has been expected to follow in the footsteps of his father, who gave up his Japanese citizenship at the age of 41 in 1996 to acquire Korean citizenship that year without completing military service. At that time, men younger than 40 were not allowed to be exempt from military service.

Under the current Military Service Act, the younger Shin has been able to acquire Korean citizenship since the first date of this year, but he is said to have yet to ask the Ministry of Justice to naturalize him as a Korean citizen.Industry officials expect him to apply for Korean citizenship in the near future, to prevent Korean consumers from regarding Lotte as a Japanese firm.His lack of Korean citizenship could also make it difficult for him to keep working in Korea, as he is required to repeatedly renew his employment visa. Industry officials therefore view his acquisition of Korean citizenship as a necessary step for him to tighten his grip on the group.In addition, the chairman’s son can reportedly hold business meetings in Korean with Lotte employees, running contrary to a rumor that he cannot speak Korean. In 2015, the Lotte chairman aroused controversy over his Korean pronunciation, when he gave a public apology for a feud over the group’s control with his older brother, Shin Dong-joo, who was even more unfamiliar with the language than the chairman.Considering the growing number of major Korean company heirs holding foreign nationality, however, some industry officials expect the Lotte chairman’s son to maintain his Japanese citizenship without acquiring Korean citizenship.Data compiled by the Fair Trade Commission (FTC) showed last April that among Korea’s 82 largest conglomerates, 16 companies had 31 heirs with foreign citizenship.At this moment, OCI Group Chairman Lee Woo-hyun, who is a U.S. national, is the only Korean conglomerate head with foreign citizenship, as the FTC did not designate Coupang founder Bom Kim, who is also an American, as the e-commerce 온라인카지노 firm’s chief.

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