A new beginning for FKIHuh Chang-soo, chairman of energy and construction giant GS Group, became the new head of the Federation of Korean Industries, a body of chief executives from the country’s largest conglomerates.
The group — representing the most powerful corporate figures in the nation — had been watched closely since it is a symbol of power over the economy, which is dominated by the largest conglomerates.
The chairmanship also represents a political burden due to the traditional ties between business and politics. The position had been vacant since the former head, the chairman of Hyosung Group, stepped down last July.
Top conglomerate leaders have been shying away from accepting the post. The chairmen from Samsung Group and Hyundai Motor Group have been refusing the position since anti-jaebol sentiment increased after the financial crisis in the late 1990s. Huh of GS also declined several times before finally agreeing to take the role.
Now that one of the top group leaders is at the helm of the organization, we hope he can revive the body as one that draws respect instead of antipathy from the public. The FKI had hitherto manifested itself mostly as a lobbying group for large companies.
Our society bears unusual hostility toward large corporations and family-run jaebol businesses even as they are credited for the country’s economic progress. The country recovered from the financial crisis that still plagues the global economy more quickly than any other country thanks to the strong leadership from these large enterprises.
Yet the conglomerates and their owners are unpopular because they more or less remain aloof from the public.
The government cannot take any corporatefriendly moves for fear of sparking public anger. The economy’s future will be in danger if the status quo remains.
The FKI must take the initiative to unravel the mess. It must come down from its high horse and approach the public and consumers with genuine modesty. We hope the new leader can turn the group into a corporate think-tank that will produce visionary ideas for the economy and help the jobless and the aging society.