Cringe-making hearings

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Cringe-making hearings

The corporate world is being pummelled by the politicians. Huh Chang-soo, chairman of the Federation of Korean Industries, and Cho Nam-ho, chairman of Hanjin Heavy Industries, received insulting rebukes for their supposedly improper business practices at hearings at the National Assembly on Wednesday and Thursday. As a result, leaders of Korea Inc. are fuming over lawmakers’ treating them as if they were criminals.

Such bitter treatment by the lawmakers was to be somewhat expected after business leaders tried to dodge the hearings on flimsy pretexts. Cho pretended that he was on overseas trips and Huh was late getting to his hearing. Legislators interpreted those actions as disrespectful.

However, the business bashing in political circles has gone too far. Public hearings should be conducted in a serious and sincere manner. Particularly when it comes to an investigative hearing by the Assembly, there should be place for hot reactions as well as rational debates between legislators and their counterparts. That is the way to reasonable solutions.

In the case of Hanjin, the lawmakers should have dealt with issues such as: “Was it unavoidable for Hanjin to lay off hundreds of workers?” “Was there any urgent need for a layoff on the part of the management?” “Did the shipbuilder do its best to minimize any side effects of the layoff?” and “What plan was prepared for the future of the company and its workers?”

The lawmakers, however, were not interested in how Cho would answer their questions. Instead, they threatened him by describing layoffs as a kind of “murder” of the workforce and demanded a withdrawal of the decision.

Legislators went so far as to demand an unconditional apology for Cho’s decision to fire workers. A lawmaker’s vow to make Cho “drop to his knees before the nation at the cost of my political life” is an admission that the politicians didn’t really want to find out what really happened at Hanjin.

Assembly hearings are not the place for rude rhetoric, as we have repeatedly pointed out. If lawmakers are resorting to corporate bashing to win votes in the general elections next year, it will only backfire. Their words and actions merely reveal the true level of their characters. This type of hearing will only give business leaders good reason to refuse to take part in the process. Our lawmakers must demonstrate a more mature culture.
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