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Pernod Ricard Korea under fire for violating business suspension

The local unit of France-based Pernod Ricard, known for its Ballentine’s and Imperial whisky brands, came under fire Monday for doing business during its three-day suspension of operations.

Pernod Ricard Korea's Imperial whiskey (Yonhap)
Pernod Ricard Korea's Imperial whiskey (Yonhap)

The company had been slapped with the business suspension after a 8-millimeter piece of broken glass was discovered in one of its signature Imperial whiskey bottles, which was imported and sold here in March, according to the Ministry of Food and Drug Safety.

Based on the Special Act on Imported Food Safety Control Act, authorities ordered the company to dispose the problematic product and imposed the suspension from March 15 to 17. 

But it was revealed that the company continued to work with a distribution agency and submitted an import declaration via the agency on March 15.

Health authorities said investigations are currently underway to see whether the company had actually infringed the ministry’s order.

Industry watchers said the ministry may impose a monthslong suspension of business or impose a large penalty on the company, citing the law which states that a company that violates a business suspension can face cancelation of its business license. If a business operation license is canceled in Korea, it takes up to six months to re-register for the license.

“As a company running its business in Korea, we regularly communicate with government authorities and agencies to abide by Korean laws and regulations. We are fully cooperating with any government authorities we communicate as usual,” said an official from Pernod Ricard Korea. 

The incident comes amid sluggish liquor market in Korea suffered by major importers and makers here.

Pernod Ricard Korea also saw its sales fall by 12 percent in the 2016 fiscal year, compared to a decade ago. Its operating profit also slipped 10 percent on-year.