An unfortunate choice for the FTC
The role of the Fair Trade Commission is significant as it serves as guardian of the free market economy. It can interfere and restrict all business and economic activities. Under the new government in particular, its role has become more weighty. It must implement various campaign promises of economic equality and justice through polices aimed at containing chaebol excesses, including a ban on new cross-affiliate investment, stricter regulation of industrial and financial capital, a punitive damage system and collective lawsuits.
That’s why we have paid keen attention to who would be the anti-trust agency’s new commissioner. The candidate must be capable of taking up the role and mission of the organization. But we are disappointed by the appointment of Han Man-soo, a law professor at Ewha Womans University. He is not right for the job. First of all, he is an expert on tax law, not fair trade and competition. The choice does not correspond with President Park Geun-hye’s emphasis on expertise in senior government posts.
The FTC is a watchdog and judge on all economic and business activities to advocate justice and fairness. A person who has strong belief in fair and free competition as well as rich knowledge in business practices and the market system must head the agency.
The FTC’s reputation eroded under former President Lee Myung-bak largely because unsuitable figures led the agency. When the president ordered action to help the economy during the international financial crisis, the FTC endorsed price-fixing and other anti-market cartel practices. It contradicted its principle of safeguarding antitrust rules by tolerating collusion. When the president demanded strong action to rein in inflation, the FTC volunteered to twist the arms of manufacturers to lower market prices. The FTC cannot serve its role if its commissioner does not bear a compatible philosophy, among other qualities.
Moreover, Han worked for a large law firm. The FTC and law firms engage in cases involving conflict of interest. A law firm earns money defending the profits of its corporate clients, while the agency enforces regulations on companies. The FTC has been sneered at as being a hostage to the law firms. Many of the agency’s employees have bene recruited by law firms and acted as lobbyists in return for fat salaries. Han was a lawyer of one of the country’s largest firms, defending large companies on numerous occasions in court. His decision and judgment as chief of the antitrust agency would hardly be credible. One cannot do his job when his credibility and credential are in question.