Tesco’s boss in South Korea has ignited a political storm after blasting lawmakers in the key Asian market as “red”.

Lee Seung-han, the chairman of Tesco’s largest business outside the UK, went on the attack after legislators ushered in a number of laws designed to protect small shopkeepers.

One measure prohibits supermarkets from opening within 1km of smaller stores without the consent of locals, while new restrictions have been introduced on larger retailers’ opening hours.

“Pro-people policies are becoming anti-people policies as the people cannot buy cheap goods,” Lee said. “This will be judged by history as populism that went against the people’s interests.”

Last year Tesco made profits of around £300m in South Korea, from sales totalling £5bn.