The World of Lotte
In the heart of the Songpa District, a kilometer from the Han River, rises Lotte Tower, the tallest skyscraper in Seoul. It’s just one of several buildings in the area owned and operated by the Lotte Corporation, one of Korea’s most powerful chaebols (재벌).
Behind Samsung, Hyundai, and SK Group, the Lotte Corporation ranks 5th among Korea’s largest chaebols, or dynastic mega-corps, with ₩121.5 trillion ($107 billion) in assets and 86 affiliates.
Lotte started in 1948 by a Korean businessman in Japan. The company produced bubble gum and other confectionary delights. Today Lotte owns a diverse portfolio of businesses:
- Retail — Lotte Department Store, Lotte Mart, Lotte Duty Free
- Tourism — Lotte World, Lotte Hotel, Lotte Resort
- Construction — Lotte Castle
- Food — Lotteria, Lotte Confectionery
- Entertainment — Lotte Cinema
- Finance — Lotte Card, Lotte Insurance
- Industrial — Lotte Chemical, Lotte Aluminum
The Lotte Lot
Over the years, as Lotte expanded into more sectors, the conglomerate swallowed two oversized city blocks and a lake in Seoul’s Songpa District. There they built premier shopping destinations, a theme park, and Seoul’s tallest skyscraper.
Let’s break down this Lotte metropolis into two sides.
- West Lotte Complex sits in the Jamsil Neighborhood (잠실동; map).
- East Lotte Complex hangs out across the street in the Sincheon Neighborhood (신천동; map)
You hop off at Jamsil Subway Station (잠실역; map) on the basement level between the complexes. You can spend hours, days, weeks, fluttering between the eastern and western ends of this Lotte universe.
West Lotte Complex
Opened in 1989, the centerpiece of Lotte’s western complex is Lotte World (롯데월드; map; aerial view), the world’s largest indoor theme park.
Lotte World’s interior is a three-story open atrium. Stand on the bottom floor, where the skating rink hums, and glance through its upper levels where kiddie rides buzz to the building’s geodesic glass top.
Lotte World isn’t just indoors. It extends outside to Magic Island (롯데월드매직아일랜드; map; aerial view), an artificial island on Seokchon Lake (석촌호수; map).
Lotte’s western complex also includes:
- Lotte World Folk Museum (롯데월드 민속박물관; map) tells Korea’s history through Neolithic dioramas, an indoor cultural village, and sweeping miniature scenes from the country’s ancient dynasties, Baekje to Joseon.
- Lotte World Hotel (롯데호텔 월드; map) is a resort and business hotel.
East Lotte Complex
Lotte’s eastern complex first opened in 2014, about 20 years after the western complex. It comprises the nation’s tallest skyscraper and two department stores.
- Lotte Tower (롯데월드타워; map) opened in 2017. Measuring 555 meter tall (1,821 ft) with 123 floors, the skyscraper is Korea’s highest (sixth globally). Korean ceramics inspired the Lotte Tower tapered facade. Observation decks, open to the paying public, occupy the skyscraper’s top six floors. Apartments, a hotel, and businesses claim the other floors.
- Lotte World Mall (롯데월드몰; map) is a 244,000-square meter retail space opened in 2014. Its 11-story main building holds a mall, movie theater, concert hall, and more. A separate 8-story structure hosts a duty free department and AvenueL, an upmarket brand for shoppers unaware of the word “budget.”
- Lotte Aquarium (롯데월드 아쿠아리움; map) sits in Lotte World Mall. It features the largest fish tank and underwater tunnel in Korea. Animals from freshwater ecosystems and all five oceans swim around the aquarium’s exhibits.
Seokchon Lake (석촌호수; map) hangs just south of the Lotte complexes. A small canal connects these twin bodies of water under Jamsil Lake Bridge (잠실호수교; map).
Seokchon Lake Park (송파나루공원; map) runs around the lake. In spring, the park fills with cherry blossoms and tourists. Its walking paths offer views of Lotte World Tower and Magic Island.