South Korean retail giant Lotte Group will be opening Lotte World Mall, the nation's largest shopping mall, in the Jamsil area of southern Seoul on Oct 14 in a move that it hopes will put an end to disputes over the safety of the structure.
"We are pleased to see the group taking the first step toward its two-decade-long dream to build a global landmark in Korea," said So Jin-sei, a Lotte Group president, who is responsible for the group's external relations division, at a press conference held on Monday, a day ahead of the official opening of the mall.
For now, Lotte's priority is finishing the complex on time, and also promoting Asia's largest shopping centre, which sits on some 87,183 square meters of land.
Lotte World Mall boasts a scale and a variety of entertainment and shopping opportunities that is unprecedented not only in Korea, but across Asia, according to Lotte Group. Among some of the facilities are an upscale department store that offers top luxury goods, the world's third-largest duty free store and a movie theatre boasting the world's widest screen.
The mall will also offer language support and other services for foreign visitors, many of whom are expected to come from China.
Lotte estimates the new mall will generate annual sales of up to 1.5 trillion won (S$1.8 billion), and create over 6,000 new jobs.
Despite the rosy forecasts, controversy lingers over safety concerns and also a rise in traffic.
Citizens living in Jamsil, one of the biggest residential districts in southern Seoul, have suffered from chronic traffic congestion, and opening the new mall could worsen the gridlock.
As part of preventive measures, Seoul City forced Lotte World Mall to offer parking spaces only to visitors who book in advance.
Industry watchers pointed out the inconvenience of such measures for shoppers.
However, Lotte Group cannot change the parking policy any time soon as a preparking system was a precondition for opening the mall.
"We will work closely with Seoul City to improve the traffic conditions and miminize the inconvenience to visitors,'' said Lee Won-woo, CEO of Lotte Corp., the developer of the mall.