It's not too late for South Korean leaders to "reflect on the lessons" to be learned from Lotte Group's business woes following Seoul's deployment of a high-tech missile defense system on China's doorstep, Chinese state media said on Tuesday.
South Korean conglomerate Lotte said last week it will sell its supermarkets in China after most of them shut amid political tensions between the two East Asian nations.
China has not acknowledged any official ban on South Korean businesses. Still, in a Tuesday editorial, state media hinted at a causal relationship between acting against Beijing's wishes and business hardship.
A consumer boycott was triggered by Seoul's agreement to deploy the U.S. Terminal High Altitude Area Defense system in South Korea to counter military threats from North Korea. China has protested the move, arguing that it is against its own national security interest.
"By rolling out the deployment of THAAD despite Beijing's repeated protestations, Seoul has willfully ignored Beijing's concerns due to its fears about Pyongyang's intentions and the pressure applied by Washington in pursuit of its own aims," the China Daily editorial said.
Lotte's decision to close its supermarkets in China highlights the extent to which relations between Beijing and Seoul have soured since Seoul agreed to THAAD's deployment, the China Daily said.
Of Lotte's 99 supermarkets in China, 74 were closed by fire authorities over safety breaches while another 13 were closed due to tough business conditions, Reuters reported.
Seoul is now bearing the brunt of the fallout from the dispute as Chinese tourist arrivals to the country plummet and as Chinese consumers shun South Korean businesses from supermarkets to pop culture exports.
Even as Seoul has "willfully ignored" repeated protests from Beijing over the deployment of the system, it's not to late for a turnaround in relations even as tensions on the Korean Peninsula continue to escalate, the newspaper added.
South Korea, it said, "should reconsider its approach to its own security and instead of relying on the U.S., it should work to restore relations with China, as together they can work to ease the tensions that continue to dangerously escalate."
After all, China is "actually in the same boat" as South Korea, the newspaper said.
"There is no need for the relationship to be in the state it is in now, since both countries share the goal of making the region nuclear-free, peaceful and stable," it said.
China has said it is concerned about North Korea's nuclear tests and environmental fallout from any radiation, as it shares a border with the reclusive state.
Correction: This article has been updated to accurately reflect a quote from the China Daily editorial.