The dispute started Thursday when Moon Yong-sik, chief executive of web security and online storage service provider Nowcom, condemned Chung Yong-jin, who oversees the operation of Shinsegae and its affiliate E-Mart, for giant retailers taking business away from neighborhood stores on his Twitter account.
In his tweet Moon said, “(I) hope major firms do not break small store operators’ hearts by launching those super-supermarkets. That’s not something for them to do.”
Moon’s attack came after Chung tweeted on Oct. 19 that Shinsegae would “continue working toward a company that loves its employees,” citing a recent article on the firm’s efforts for improving employee welfare.
Moon criticized Chung’s tweet, asking if it was really appropriate to be talking about employee welfare when smaller businesses were dying out in the race against giant retail firms.
The Nowcom head also took issue with E-Mart’s pizzas. The pizzas have come to symbolize the mammoth-sized retail firm’s attempts to overthrow smaller outlets.
Chung refuted with equally angry remarks, saying he understands that Moon stands on the “left side” but that he needs to ease up on his anger. “It can harm our society,” he said.
Moon shot back with comments criticizing conglomerates in general for contaminating society with their greed.
Chung took a step further too far, according to critics by airing Moon’s past prison record.
Moon had been imprisoned in 2008 for copyright violations.
The online battle is now threatening to turn into an ideological dispute, industry watchers said.
The spat came as conglomerates face mounting protests for their rapid expansion of “super-supermarkets” large convenience stores which have been eroding the businesses of smaller local stores.
The largest SSM operator Lotte Group has opened 231 of Lotte Supers nationwide since 2001. Homeplus runs 206 branches of its smaller franchise, Homeplus Express, while GS Retail operates 183 SSMs, named GS Supermarkets.
E-Mart is a latecomer to the SSM competition. It has opened 17 smaller supermarkets since July 2009, “E-Mart Everyday.”
The fate of super-supermarkets seemed to hang in the balance this week as the political sector continued to bicker over how to regulate their growth.