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[Newsmaker] Trump thanks Lotte chief for job creation in rare meeting

Lotte Group Chairman Shin Dong-bin became the first South Korean conglomerate leader to meet US President Donald Trump at the White House since he assumed office, where the two discussed business investments and job creation, the company said Tuesday.

The meeting, which was held at the firm’s request, took place during Shin’s visit to the US to attend the completion ceremony of Lotte Chemical’s ethane cracking center in Louisiana last week.

The meeting on Monday was attended by US National Security Council Senior Director for Asian Affairs Matthew Pottinger, Korea’s Ambassador to the US Cho Yoon-je and Lotte Chemical’s business unit leader Kim Gyo-hyun. 

US President Donald Trump (left) talks with Lotte Group Chairman Shin Dong-bin (second from right) at the White House on Monday. (Lotte Corporation)
US President Donald Trump (left) talks with Lotte Group Chairman Shin Dong-bin (second from right) at the White House on Monday. (Lotte Corporation)

During the talks, Shin gave details of the firm’s new ethane cracking center built with an investment of $3.1 billion. In response, Trump thanked him and asked about the products, according to the company.

The Lotte chief also explained the current business situation of Lotte New York Palace Hotel, which was acquired by the group in 2015. Trump was quoted as commenting that it was a good investment, advising the company to be cautious about preserving the 130-year building.

The two leaders also talked about how to mutually cooperate to strengthen the two nations’ relations, according to the firm.

Following the meeting, Trump tweeted, “Great to welcome Chairman Shin from Lotte Group to the WH. They just invested $3.1 billion into Louisiana-biggest investment in US.”

He went on to praise the group for creating “thousands more jobs for Americans.”

Earlier on Thursday, Shin attended the opening ceremony of the new plant -- a joint venture with Axiall, which the Westlake Chemical acquired in 2016. Lotte owns 88 percent stake in the plant, while its US partner holds the rest.

The plant is capable of annually producing 1 million tons of ethylene, using shale gas as fuel instead of naphtha, which is derived from crude oil and more expensive. The firm plans to enhance the production of 400,000 tons of ethylene in the future considering local conditions.

Currently, the group has five subsidiaries in the US -- Lotte Chemical, Lotte Duty Free, Lotte Hotel, Lotte Global Logistics and Lotte International.

Lotte Chemical runs an engineering plastic product plants in Alabama and Lotte Duty Free has an outlet at the Guam International Airport.

By Shin Ji-hye (