Trio brings foreign flavor to Lotte

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Trio brings foreign flavor to Lotte


From left, Wang Shi, Wang Yan and Ajeet Kumar, who are among the handful of foreign workers at Lotte Department Store. Provided by the store

The grandson of a Chinese brigade commander during the Korean War (1950-1953). A member of the most powerful and influential caste in India. A law graduate of one of the most prestigious universities in China.

These are some of the handful of foreigners who work at Lotte Department Store in Korea, which is attempting to make its employee base as diverse as the products on its shelves.

While it’s not uncommon to see foreign workers at financial trading or electronics firms, they are still a rarity in the retail world, where customer interaction is key.

Lotte Department Store, however, is looking to change that by actively recruiting foreigners to work in its stores here in Korea. Its also looking to expand its worldwide presence by opening more stores abroad - especially in China, India and Vietnam - as part of a broader goal of becoming a true global retailer by 2018.

As of December last year, Lotte employed 17 foreign regular workers at its department stores.

One of them is Wang Shi. Wang’s ties to Korea go back several generations. His grandfather fought in the Korean War as a brigade commander. After graduating from Shandong University in Shandong Province, China, he got a government job focusing in Shanghai. But he wanted to do something a bit more adventurous. Wang came to Korea in 2004, earned a master’s degree in business administration at Yonsei University and joined Lotte in 2006 with hopes of learning more about Korean businesses and consumers.

“My Korean friends in China suggested that I come to Korea,” Wang says. “My father was also supportive, saying that I should do my best in Korea and be the bridge between the two countries.”

Ajeet Kumar comes from a more distant country.

A member of the Brahmin caste - a class of educators, lawmakers and scholars in India - Kumar was born in Bodh Gaya, northeastern India, which is widely known as the site of the Buddha’s enlightenment.

After graduating from Jawaharlal Nehru University in New Delhi, he got a job as a consultant at a foreign firm in Bangalore, known as the Silicon Valley of India.

But Kumar eventually he quit his job to come Korea - a long-time goal of his - in 2004.

After getting a master’s degree in international affairs at Seoul National University, he joined Lotte in 2008, hoping to interact with more people and gain more experience.

“Oftentimes when Korean consumers are upset, if I go up to them and ask how I can help in Korean, they calm down a little bit, mainly because they’re surprised that a foreigner like me can help them by speaking fluent Korean,” he said.

Wang Yan is more of a newcomer, joining Lotte in August last year.

Wang majored in law at Tsinghua University, often ranked as one of the best universities in China. She is still in the training program at the store’s Sogong-dong branch in central Seoul but will soon be on the floors helping customers.

By Lee Soo-ki []

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