The pleas of corporate leadersSohn Kyung-shik, chairman of Korea Employers Federation (KEF), expressed concern over the negative impact of the proposed revisions in the commercial act on the corporate sector. In a meeting with Justice Minister Park Sang-ki aimed to hear out the opinions of business leaders, Sohn pointed out that business sentiment has already been impaired by the burdens of drastic changes in legal work hours, minimum wage, and guidance on profit-sharing with smaller suppliers.
The proposed establishment of cumulative voting and independent auditors in board meetings of companies can keep excesses of the business owners in check, but they also expose Korea Inc. to outside predatory forces. He argued that enhancement of outside shareholders’ rights should be accompanied with protections on the management so that companies do not have to waste resources on protecting their ownership instead of honing future competitiveness.
A meeting between Industry and Trade Minister Sung Yun-mo and the chairmen of mid-sized companies on the same day was more poignant. Chiefs of mid-sized enterprises campaigned for the expansion of the flextime system so as not to lose their competitiveness and clients as they cannot keep up with work under the new schedule.
The bill proposing to extend the flextime has been put off until the legislative session early next year. President Moon Jae-in ordered to hold the bill until the tripartite council of government, employers and employees comes to an agreement on the issue amidst strong oppositions from unions and the progressive front against any stretch in flextime. The 52-hour workweek cap goes fully into action from January on most worksites as the grace period ends by the end of December. Other additional regulations on the commercial and fair trade acts all could dampen entrepreneurship, one business owner said in the meeting, pleading the government to establish an environment where they can enjoy doing business in Korea.
The Business Survey Index, which measures the sentiment of 600 large companies based on their sales, showed corporate outlook for December at its worst since February 2017, following the impeachment of President Park Geun-hye. With sentiment so low, business investment can hardly be expected to pick up. Businessmen may have to rally in front of the National Assembly or petition on the Blue House to demand fairer treatment.
JoongAng Ilbo, Nov. 28, Page 34