The official website of South Korean supermarket chain Lotte Mart's China branch has resumed operation, more than two months after it was shut down amid worsened relations between China and South Korea over the deployment of the US Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system.
This could be one of the latest signs that bilateral ties are recovering, especially after new South Korean President Moon Jae-in sent a special envoy to Beijing this week.
A screenshot of Lottemart.cn on May 20, 2017.
Chinese citizens responded with anger to Lotte Group's decision in late February to host THAAD on a golf resort owned by the conglomerate in Seongju in the southeastern part of the country, and launched a boycott of Lotte Marts across China.
The official website of Lotte Mart's China branch was closed on March 1 and had appeared to be "under maintenance" until recently.
Among the 99 Lotte Marts in China, 74 closed their doors, 13 were declared bankruptcy and the remaining 12 struggled to attract shoppers.
Few shoppers visited a Lotte Mart in the Wangjing area of Beijing on March 1, 2017. /CGTN Photo
The Chinese Foreign Ministry has repeatedly voiced the country's opposition to the deployment of THAAD in South Korea, saying it would threaten China's security and harm strategic balance in the region.
In response to the boycott of Lotte in China, spokespersons of the ministry emphasized that relevant companies operating in China must comply with laws and regulations, adding that it was the Chinese market and consumers that determined whether a foreign company was successful in China.
However, with the election and inauguration of Moon as earlier this month, there are signs that bilateral relations could be on a track of recovery.
A liberal who favors dialogue and engagement rather than confrontation and sanctions on relations with the DPRK, Moon has cast his doubt on THAAD on a number of occasions and promised to "fully consult" with both China and the US on the issue.
Moon Jae-in heads to the Blue House after taking an oath as South Korea's 19th president at the National Assembly building in Seoul, South Korea on May 10, 2017. /VCG Photo
South Korea will reconsider the THAAD deployment under Moon's leadership, Pan Heping, a Chinese expert in international relations, told CGTN recently. He said China-South Korea relations would "undergo a process of slow recovery and development."
In a meeting with Moon's Special Envoy Lee Hae-chan in Beijing on Friday, Chinese President Xi Jinping said China was willing to work with Seoul to "safeguard the hard-won achievements made in the development of bilateral ties."
The two sides should consolidate mutual political trust and properly handle divergence on the basis of mutual understanding and mutual respect so as to bring relations back to the normal track at an early date, Xi added.
Chinese President Xi Jinping (R) shakes hands with South Korean President Moon Jae-in's Special Envoy Lee Hae-chan at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on May 19, 2017. /Xinhua Photo
Other positive signs included South Korea's ruling party calling for an immediate suspension of the THAAD deployment on May 12, and the participation of a South Korean delegation in the Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation in Beijing on May 14-15.
There are also reports that some South Korean performing stars are beginning to receive phone calls from China again.
Nevertheless, with the future of the THAAD issue still unclear, it remains to be seen to what extent the China-South Korea relationship can recover.