Kumho groups are independent, top court rules

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Kumho groups are independent, top court rules

The Supreme Court on Saturday reversed a Fair Trade Commission (FTC) classification that Kumho Asiana Group and Kumho Petrochemical Group were a single entity. The two groups are now independent.

Kumho Asiana Group, which operates Asiana Airlines, the nation’s second-largest flight carrier, as well as Kumho Tire, filed a suit in July asking the antitrust body to cancel its placing of eight affiliates of Kumho Petrochemical under Kumho Asiana’s umbrella. It won the case.
But the FTC appealed the Supreme Court decision, which agreed on Saturday with the country’s 29th-largest conglomerate.

“It appears Kumho Petrochemical has been operating independently from Kumho Asiana,” the top court said in a ruling.

The ruling noted that Kumho Petrochemical’s eight affiliates have been recruiting entry-level workers in a separate process since 2010, that the group has never used the logo of Kumho Asiana and that it has filed regulatory filings independently from Kumho Asiana. The two groups also have different office buildings.

Following the ruling, Kumho Asiana now has 24 affiliates under its umbrella.

“Independent management [of Kumho Asiana and Kumho Petrochemical] has been possible through the ruling,” a Kumho Asiana spokesman said. “We hope to compete against each other and boost cooperation as well.”

The two groups are run by two sons of late Kumho Group founder Park In-chon. Kumho Asiana is chaired by third son Park Sam-koo and Kumho Petrochemical by fourth son Park Chan-koo.

Kumho Petrochemical Group consists of Kumho Petrochemical, Kumho Mitsui Chemicals, Kumho Polychem and five others. The name change from Kumho Group to Kumho Asiana Group was made in 2004.

The two brothers launched a fight in 2009 over how to handle the conglomerate they co-inherited from their father after the group struggled with a grueling walkout in the wake of the 2008 global financial turmoil. Park Chan-koo took eight affiliates in 2009 and walked away, though the law did not officially acknowledge the spinoff.

BY SEO JI-EUN [seo.jieun@joongang.co.kr]

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