&#91FOUNTAIN&#93Proud past, troubled present

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&#91FOUNTAIN&#93Proud past, troubled present

Chohung Bank has more titles starting with “the nation’s first,” or “No.1” than any other local bank.
The bank was established in 1897 as Hansung Bank, and is in the Korean Guinness Book of Records as Korea’s oldest.
Also, it is the first corporation to have been formed here in Korea. The name “Chohung” was adopted on October 1, 1943, when the bank was merged and taken over by other banks during the Japanese occupation.
In 1918, the bank set up a branch office in Tokyo, the first local bank to go abroad. In 1956, when the bank listed its stocks on the market, it was the first listed stock on Korea’s security market.
The bank has had other “firsts” in its history. The bank was the first to use automatic teller machines, in July 1990 in its Myeong-dong branch. Its savings and trust was the first to exceed 10 trillion won ($8.3 billion) among Korean banks.
The bank also first adopted English initials as a bank logo ― CHB in May 1999 ― and was the first to launch online banking services, in July 1999. Chohung Bank was always the first to try something new.
The labor union at the bank was always a front-runner as well. The bank was the first, in 1960, to have a labor union. The union members staged the first financial sector labor demonstration, on April 17, 1980.
In 1999, the labor unions involved merged before Chungbuk Bank, Gangwon Bank and Hyundai Finance were taken over by Chohung Bank, the first of such mergers.
These events all led Chohung workers to feel proud of their workplace, and that pride is included in the English logo, CHB. In the letter H, green and blue colors are used, which stand for the logical and ideal image of the bank. The background color of the logo, crimson, stands for loyalty to customers.
The motto of the bank is “Always put customers first.”
But the insolvency at the bank does not have anything to do with the bank’s history or records. Customers, who are very smart and clever, have already started withdrawing money from the bank.
The high-profile records of the bank might not be glorious when labor union members get into a large-scale strike. The Chohung Bank union members and their families do not want the first bank of the country to lose its honor with an indefinite strike.

by Nahm Yoon-ho

The writer is a deputy editor of social policy news desk at the JoongAng Ilbo.
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