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Shilla, Hanwha win Seoul duty free licences

South Korea’s government has awarded duty free licences for two stores in downtown Seoul after a long tender process.

Seoul duty free stores can now be opened by a Hotel Shilla-led joint venture and by Hanwha Galleria Timeworld.

Korea is the world’s largest duty free market thanks to substantial sales to Japanese and Chinese travellers. The shops now authorised by the government could generate nearly US$2 billion in annual sales according to projections by some of the seven bidders.

The two new licences are the first to be issued to large retailers for 15 years.

Hotel Shilla, part of the Samsung Group, possibly coveted a licence the most, unable to win Seoul city authority approval to expand its existing Seoul duty free store.

Now Hotel Shilla and partner Hyundai Development will start construction of a 27,400 sqm store with parking for an eye-popping 400 tourist buses. It will be the world’s largest downtown duty free shop.

The other successful bidder, Hanwha Galleria Timeworld, plans to open a store inside parent Hanwha’s golden office tower on the banks of the Han River.

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