A contradictory pitch for growthCho Yang-ho, chairman of Hanjin Group, admitted that he was forced to step down as chief of the organizing committee for the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympics. He said he met the former culture and sports minister before he resigned. Cho reportedly lost favor with the Blue House because he refused to separately donate to the K-Sports Foundation led by Choi Soon-sil — a friend of President Park Geun-hye indicted for wielding unfettered influence in state affairs — after he handed 1 billion won ($873,362) to the Mi-R Foundation also run by Choi.
Cho is said to have also rejected demands that he place business orders for Olympics infrastructure to a company related to Choi.
Coincidentally, the government and state-run creditors turned cold toward Hanjin Shipping, one of Cho’s major companies, and had the country’s largest container carrier head to bankruptcy court.
Lee Mie-kyung, vice chairman of CJ Group, also reportedly bowed out of management under government pressure. According to a taped conversation in late 2013, then-senior presidential secretary of economic affairs told a CJ Group executive that Lee had to go “before it is too late because we would all be in trouble.” Ten months later, Lee resigned from management and left to go to the United States, citing health problems. The business community believes CJ irked the Blue House for satirizing the president in a film and TV drama the group produced.
The revelations are all ridiculously unbelievable. Taming and strong-arming a company is only thinkable under a dictatorship. The president repeatedly called for the need to revive the business and economy. But behind the scenes, she and her aides have been controlling the business community for their self-interests. President Park is now suspected to have invited the heads of seven of the top conglomerates to collect funds for her longtime friend’s foundations.
The practices of intimidating and stealing money from companies in return for favors are ills that must be rooted out. The prosecution must conduct a thorough investigation and companies must repent for playing along. The political parties also must unite to restore economic order.
JoongAng Ilbo, Nov. 5, Page 30