Lotte Corporation, one of Korea’s well-known conglomerates, owns and operates a large retail supermarket franchise called the “Lotte Mart”. With over 280 convenient locations around the country, “Lotte Mart” is inevitably an integral part of life for many Koreans.
So when one customer, by the name of Paris Park, noticed a guide dog in training being denied access inside the Jamsil, Seoul location, she couldn’t pass by. On her Instagram @fashionin_parispark, Paris shared pictures of the puppy-in-training…
… with a lengthy explanation of what seemed to be happening. In her pictures, the puppy-in-training is clearly dressed in guide dog training gear, with the certificate attached to his orange-colored vest.
She claimed, “The employees were screaming at the trainer” for bringing a guide dog when she isn’t a visually impaired person.
It sounds like they were allowed to enter through the entrance, but once they got inside, the employees stopped them.
— Paris Park
The post also pointed out that “the manager” who handled the situation “showed no professionalism“…
… by raising his voice in a condescending manner and “making the trainer and her daughter cry“.
The way they looked at the dog… The way they talked in their raised voices… Eventually, the puppy became extremely nervous and started biting the leash… Look, these guide dogs must go through real-life training so they can later provide the adequate assistance to the visually impaired people who need it. If guide dogs cannot enter supermarkets and department stores… Do you mean to tell me that visually impaired people don’t deserve access to these places?
— Paris Park
When the post went viral, other guide dog trainers stepped forward and shared their personal experiences of having been denied access at Lotte brand facilities.
One netizen shared disappointment at how “Nothing has changed in 15 years” for guide dogs and puppies-in-training in Korea.
I used to train guide dogs 15 years ago. Back then, I couldn’t even dream of going inside supermarkets. Department stores would assign security guards to follow me around. Subways? I would have to sit down with the station officers first to persuade them into letting me on the train. I grew spiteful and tried pushing my luck everywhere. I confronted all the struggles head on, hoping that my work would later benefit the guide dogs and trainers of the future. But to hear that nothing has changed in 15 years…
— Instagram User @zaram.cacco.noona
Korean netizens grew furious and reached out to the Jamsil location to “educate the ignorant employees” and demand an apology. Celebrities, like actress Lee Chung Ah and idols Jo Kwon and Jun Hyoseong, also actively voiced their concern and frustration toward the lack of understanding of how guide dogs and guide dog training work.
As criticism reached peak, the Jamsil branch Lotte Mart issued an official apology via Instagram — stating that they “had been inconsiderate of the guide dog trainer and the puppy-in-training.”
We admit that we had failed to be more considerate in interacting with the guide dog trainer and the accompanying guest who visited the Jamsil location of Lotte Mart. We sincerely apologize. Learning from this, Lotte Mart promises to train all employees on how to assist not only guide dogs, but also their trainers. We will make sure this does not happen ever again, across all our locations. Again, we will educate ourselves from this incident and strive to become a more customer-friendly Lotte Mart.
— Lotte Mart Executives
The apology has, unfortunately, only fueled the online rage — for its “yet again completely ignorant phrasing“.
One netizen pointed out, “Granting access to guide dogs and trainers is not a matter of consideration, but a matter of legal compliance.”
… Are you serious? You don’t have to be more considerate. You have to abide by the law, you literal idiots. Guys, I still doubt they know where they f*cked up.
By law, all guide dogs and guide dogs in training — regardless of the trainer’s ability to see — must be granted access. It is, however, a law that is often overlooked in the Korean society. Netizens hope this will become an eye-opener for more brands to review and improve their internal protocols on how to correctly assist persons with disabilities.