Grilling businessmen

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Grilling businessmen

Businessmen are being called up as part of the longstanding ritual of parliamentary questioning, which starts on Sept. 10.

The National Assembly’s Trade, Industry and Energy Committee requested over 150 businessmen for questioning last month. The opposition party alone has requested 146. Businessmen are being rounded up regardless of the need or their relevancy.

Parliamentary questioning has long served as a stage where lawmakers flex their muscles, especially towards businessmen. Parliamentary probes are designed to shed light on state affairs. But they are often used to summon and embarrass entrepreneurs. Some lawmakers hold an outdated belief that approval ratings will increase if they rail and shout at the CEOs and chairmen of major companies. Committees with interests in business affairs fight to summon the biggest fish.

Shin Dong-bin, chairman of Lotte Group, which underwent a controversial power struggle, is being demanded by three different standing committees. Even committees that have no affairs in the corporate sector are summoning chaebol group owners as witnesses. Chung Mong-koo, chairman of Hyundai Motor Group, is wanted by the Agriculture, Food, Rural Affairs, Oceans and Fisheries Committee. Rep. Yoo Sung-yeop of the New Politics Alliance for Democracy wants to hear Chung’s thoughts, as the automobile sector has benefited from various free trade agreements that have hurt local farmers. Some of their logic for wanting to question businessmen is so ridiculous that all we can do is shake our heads at the fact that they represent the people.

The biggest priority for companies these days is trying to keep their corporate heads away from the legislature. Executives are making visits to legislators to persuade them to call off the summons. Corporate activities come to a full stop during the two months of parliamentary questioning. The local economy is already shaky. Companies cannot afford to lose focus. Instead of intimidating corporate heads, lawmakers should use the parliamentary questioning sessions to assess problems and risks of the local economy and work out solutions with bureaucrats. JoongAng Ilbo, Sept. 1, Page 34

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