The wheelchair defenseThe probe into the 6 billion won ($6.5 million) slush fund found at the residence of Sungkok Art Museum Director Park Mun-sun is being delayed. The prosecution suspects that the money is the slush fund of Kim Suk-won, the former chairman of the Ssangyong Group and is gathering evidence. But the probe is not going well as Kim remains abroad. Staff at the prosecutors’ office said that they understood that Kim was staying in Japan but he later flew to the United States. The prosecutor’s office has urged him to return but he remains abroad for no specific reason.
It is cowardly for a person who is at the center of a case to stay abroad as if trying to avoid investigation. The suspicion grows that he is on the run because he has done something wrong. After the financial crisis more than 1 trillion won of public funds were poured into the Ssangyong Group to bail out its lax management. That money has not been repaid. The former chairman put a heavy burden on the people and he accumulated a huge amount of money at his residence instead of paying money back to the people. It is wrong that he stays abroad, flying from one country to another without offering an explanation.
The Financial Times reported recently that when chairmen of Korean conglomerates are in trouble they climb into a wheelchair and look for sympathy.
In Korean neighborhoods in the United States people say that fugitive bankrupt businessmen, who fled their creditors in Korea, can be seen spending lots of money. That is why there is a saying that even if a company goes under, the chairman does not. There seem to be too many unethical entrepreneurs and too few entrepreneurs whom the people respects and thus anti-conglomerate sentiment is widespread.
Bill Gates and Warren Buffett, the first and second richest men in the United States, decided to donate most of their assets, amounting to tens of billions of dollars, to charity. Americans truly respect these businessmen. Although Korea’s capitalism has a shorter history than that of the United States, Korean businessmen have little sense of duty toward society.
If Kim believes that he can get away with this, he is mistaken. He must return immediately and cooperate with the investigation. If he has done nothing wrong, he must clarify that and restore his honor. If he has done something wrong, he must take responsibility and appeal for forgiveness. That is the least he can do for the people, who gave his company so much money.