Tread carefullyToo much can be as bad as too little. And moves toward so-called “economic democratization” are no exception. Hyun Oh-seok, deputy prime minister for economic affairs and finance minister, had a breakfast meeting yesterday with heads of the agencies charged with implementing the successful campaign pledge of President Park Geun-hye to pursue such “democratization.” The guests included Fair Trade Commission Chairman Noh Dae-lae, National Tax Service Commissioner Kim Duk-joong and Customs Service head Baek Un-chan.
In the meeting, Hyun said he will stand up to any bills that excessively restrict business activities. He earnestly called on the three agency chiefs not to discourage companies from investment in the name of economic “justice.” Hyun’s remarks came after President Park mentioned at a meeting with her senior secretaries a day earlier that government policies or legislation aimed at promoting economic justice should not be distorted in a way that constricts the vigor of our business sector. We welcome those sentiments.
In fact, it’s this current government that has invited chaos in the business sphere. Park’s presidential transition committee actually removed economic democratization from its national agenda in February. After it met a strong backlash from people who wanted to know if the president was abandoning a campaign promise, the government then inserted the theme into its 140 national agenda items in May. Due to the flip-flop, industry as well as government ministries were all confused about the direction of the administration. In the meantime, the corporate sector decided to postpone investments while the ruling and opposition parties started a race to come up with populist legislation.
Our lawmakers outdid themselves. The opposition Democratic Party has submitted as many as 34 bills, including one targeted at increasing the financial burden of franchise headquarters and another one banning companies from laying off employees - both of which could wind up in the constitutional court.
The most outstanding is a bill to revise the corporate governance law for financial companies so as to extend the eligibility evaluation - now only required for major shareholders of banks - to non-monetary institutions like insurance and securities companies to deprive large shareholders of their control of a company when they are caught for embezzlement or breach of trust. It doesn’t make sense to revive the specter of authoritarian days in the name of economic democratization. Our legislators must approach the issue in a more sober manner.