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(EDITORIAL from Korea Times on April 6)

All News 07:10 April 06, 2016

Misbehaving chaebol owners

The misbehavior of chaebol owners is contributing to the widespread negative perception that many Koreans have of them.

The latest case of alleged chaebol misconduct is what is known as the "Mr. Pizza assault case." It involves Jung Woo-hyun, chairman of MPK Group, which runs the nation's leading pizza franchise. Jung is facing a police probe for allegedly assaulting a security guard. Jung reportedly struck the guard for closing the building he was dining in before he left. Through a statement Tuesday, Jung said he was deeply sorry for causing a stir, and that he was in contact with the security guard to make a personal apology.

Another chaebol-related scandal involves Daelim, which is among the top 20 conglomerates and is one of the nation's oldest construction firms. Daelim Industrial Vice Chairman Lee Hae-wook's habitual verbal and physical mistreatment of his chauffeurs came to public attention in March after media reports that he had let go of almost 40 of them for a variety of trivial reasons after abusing them either physically or verbally. Faced with heavy public criticism, Lee, the third-generation heir of the Daelim Group, had to apologize at a meeting of the firm's shareholders for his abusive conduct. This kind of incident raises questions about hereditary leadership within the chaebol and their lack of judgment and character when leading such companies.

In Korea, where there is growing public rage over social and economic inequality, the misbehavior of the super-rich is being severely judged. A civic group has filed a petition with the prosecution demanding an investigation of the above cases involving the leaders of the MPK Group and Daelim. The civic group said that the chaebol owners had deceived and humiliated ordinary people through their haughty behavior.

The immediate problem with the misconduct of the heads of large conglomerates is that they dent their companies' public image and hamper their business. After Jung's incident spread through social networking services, some Internet users said they will discontinue ordering from Mr. Pizza.

The larger problem is that the two cases highlight the backward mindset of the chaebol. They reflect some chaebol owners' disregard for employees and people who do not share their status and wealth.

The first quality of an effective leader in any sector is respect for others. Korea's potential to become a global business leader will continue to be unfulfilled as long as corporate heads think they are entitled to exercise unchallenged supremacy.

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