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S. Korea's antitrust watchdog chief urges businesses to reform voluntarily

All News 15:26 June 23, 2017

SEJONG, June 23 (Yonhap) -- The head of South Korea's antitrust watchdog said Friday that local big-name business groups need to voluntary reform and change their cobweb-like family-run governance structure and meet market expectations.

"I called for this meeting to ask businesses to make changes and set an example," Fair Trade Commission (FTC) Chairman Kim Sang-jo said before the talks with leaders of the four biggest conglomerates.

The members of the roundtable talks were Kwon Oh-hyun, vice chairman of Samsung Electronics Co.; Chung Jin-hang, president of Hyundai Motor Co.; Park Jung-ho, president of SK Telecom Co.; and Ha Hyun-hwoi, president of LG Corp.

South Korea's conglomerates have been under fire for years as they largely rely on controversial cross-shareholding arrangements among their affiliated companies to strengthen their owner families' control over the entire group.

Kim said the four companies have failed to meet the expectations of the market and society although the fast-changing global and local economic environment requires a more transparent and open decision-making process.

"A few companies have become world-leading businesses, but many people are still making ends meet," the senior official and former civic activist who has advocated for greater rights for minority shareholders. "I don't think every company should be blamed, yet there is a need to look back and reflect."

The FTC head, on the other hand, said he will be supportive in company's taking action, as he has no plans to be pushy, and strives to be coherent and predictable.

"I will listen, talk and give full support," Kim said. "As the head of the FTC, I will be patient enough to wait for the businesses to make the necessary changes."

Fair Trace Commission Chairman Kim Sang-jo (3rd from L) and leaders of South Korea's four biggest business groups pose before roundtable talks in Seoul on June 23, 2017. (Yonhap)


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