|A guide dog in training, learning to assist people with visual disabilities, rests on the floor at Lotte Mart's Jamsil outlet, Sunday, in this photo captured from social media. Yonhap|
By Bahk Eun-ji
Lotte Mart, one of the nation's biggest discount store chains, has been under fire, even facing threats of a boycott, after an employee refused to allow a guide dog in training to enter one of its outlets.
On Sunday, a woman was taking the trainee guide dog to Lotte Mart's Jamsil branch in southeastern Seoul. But the manager and employees of the store refused to let them enter.
The incident became widely known after another shopper there posted photos of the dog sitting inside the store on social media.
In the post on Instagram, the user wrote, "The employees raised their voices, and blamed the woman who brought the dog, saying she was not even a disabled person. The woman broke into tears and the dog looked threatened."
The user added, "I don't know the details, but did the employees have to yell at customers and the dog like that? The dog was allowed to enter the building in the first place, and if the store inside the building wanted to refuse entry, they should have done so in a more polite manner."
It was revealed later that the woman was a puppy walker, volunteering to help train guide dogs. The dog was wearing a jacket with the message "I am being trained to become a guide dog" displayed.
As the controversy escalated, Lotte Mart posted an apology on its official Instagram account, Monday, a day after the incident.
"We would like to offer our apology for mistreating the guide dog and the puppy walker who visited our Jamsil branch. We will deliver clear guidelines for such guide dogs to raise the awareness of our employees so that this kind of incident does not happen again," it said.
However, the public denounced the company's short apology, claiming it was lacking in sincerity.
"Lotte Mart's apology looked so insincere. It seems like they don't know what they did and why it was wrong," an internet user wrote on an online community. "The manager and employees should apologize to the puppy walker and the dog as well."
People even proposed boycotting the products and services of Lotte Group. Some shared a photo of a Lotte credit card cut in half and the phrase "I don't buy NOTTE" (a combination of NO and LOTTE) on social media.
The Korea Blind Union also criticized the retail company. "The problem here was the guide dog was refused entry to the store without convincing reasons, but it is absurd that the company says it would treat customers better by taking lessons from the case. Mere words from Lotte Mart, unaccompanied by any detailed measures to prevent recurrence, can never be a sincere apology," the union said in a statement, Tuesday.