Chaebol skip some end-of-year rituals

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Chaebol skip some end-of-year rituals

Korean conglomerates are having a gloomy year’s end, hit by a double whammy of an economic squeeze and an investigation of their involvement in the corruption and abuse of power scandal that could cost President Park Geun-hye her job.

Most of Korea’s top 10 groups by revenue are skipping end-of-the-year rituals such as employee prizes and even reshuffles. Many of them, including Samsung and LG, have encouraged employees to take unused holidays during the last week of 2016.

Samsung indefinitely postponed its annual “Proud Samsung Men” prizes, which were awarded to a dozen employees in four categories: contribution, technology, design and special partnership.

The ceremony used to be the most festive event for all Samsung workers and awardees were normally promoted in the reshuffle that was announced not long after.

The year-end reshuffle has been ditched as well as Samsung is investigated for bribery involving the daughter of President Park’s controversial friend Choi Soon-sil. Some of its top executives including Vice Chairman Lee Jae-yong have been summoned for questioning.

Even though up to 500 Samsung Electronics executives met over three days starting Dec. 19 to review this year’s second half and establish business strategies for 2017, Lee did not attend. Last year, he met with heads of Samsung operations from around the world and threw a banquet on Dec. 18 at the Samsung Electronics’ Seocho headquarters in southern Seoul to cheer up the troops.

“It’s not clear when we can execute major decisions regarding our corporate overhaul - even the abolishment of the Future Strategy Office under the Samsung Group, which Vice Chairman Lee unexpectedly promised during a parliamentary hearing on Dec. 6 - because it’s more related to external circumstances than internal,” said a Samsung executive. “It will depend on how the special investigation unfolds. The schedule [for the executive reshuffle and other key decisions] could be pushed to as late as March or April.”

Vice Chairman Kwon Oh-hyun will preside over Samsung Electronics’ 2017 kick-off ceremony at Suwon Digital City on Jan. 2, as he did at the beginning of this year.

Hyundai Motor Group, Korea’s No. 2 conglomerate by size, is asking individual subsidiaries to hold their own ceremonies to wrap up the year instead of holding one for the entire group. Chairman Chung Mong-koo is scheduled to preside over a 2017 kick-off ceremony on Jan. 2 at the group’s headquarters in Yangjae-dong, southern Seoul.

SK Group is skipping a year-end ceremony based on the rationale that it isn’t appropriate after a reshuffle administered on Dec. 21 forced a significant number of executives to leave Korea’s third-largest chaebol. Chairman Chey Tae-won is scheduled to deliver a commencement speech on Jan. 2 that will emphasize the importance of innovation and reform.

LG Group was exceptional among top conglomerates to throw an end-of-the-year ceremony on Dec. 23 at its Twin Tower headquarters in western Seoul in the presence of some 100 employees of the group’s holding company LG Corp. Chairman Koo Bon-moo and Vice Chairman Koo Bon-joon attended.

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