[EDITORIALS]A chairman on the hot seatNow that Son Kil-seung, the chairman of the Federation of Korean Industries, has been found guilty in connection with the insolvency of SK Global, attention is being paid to his future course of action. Considering Mr. Son’s position as a leader in the Korean business community and his connections with leading figures in business and politics, his future course is no longer a personal matter that can be decided lightly.
The federation yesterday announced that Mr. Son will not resign from his chairman’s position until the court finalizes the judgment against him. The court also made clear that the participants at a chairmen’s meeting decided to give a vote of confidence to Mr. Son. However, civic groups, including the People’s Solidarity for Participatory Democracy, spoke out demanding his resignation not only from SK Group management but as chairman of the federation, provided he is found guilty.
Whether the chairman of the federation must maintain strict ethical standards or not is controversial. Mr. Son’s integrity as a person as well as a public figure has been damaged by the court’s judgment. It is now difficult to ignore an argument that a person with flawed integrity cannot represent the business community. The court pointed out that the judgment of guilty derives from false bookkeeping, which means “Mr. Son damaged people’s credibility on the market economy by failing to fulfill the social responsibility that accompanies wealth.”
The federation is expected to solve problems such as an investment ceiling system and class-action lawsuits by shareholders in collaboration with the government. The chairman has led efforts to solve these issues. If the head of the business community is bound by court proceedings, his actions will be limited. Now is the time for the federation to enlarge its role. The economy is depressed and uneasy, and the business community must readjust to a changing environment created by the reform policy of the new government. We wonder whether the business community and Mr. Son considered these difficulties when it was decided to keep Mr. Son as chairman.