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Is S. Korea a Business-friendly Country? Businesses Doubt it
Mixed Messages from Gov’t
Is S. Korea a Business-friendly Country? Businesses Doubt it
  • By Jung Suk-yee
  • July 12, 2018, 22:42
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Although President Moon Jae-in showed friendly gestures toward business before and after his recent visit to India and meeting with Samsung Electronics vice chairman Jay Lee, the atmosphere on site is not as friendly as expected.
Although President Moon Jae-in offered friendly gestures toward the business community before and after his recent visit to India and meeting with Samsung Electronics vice chairman Lee Jae-yong, business leaders say they cannot feel any changes in the government's corporate policies.

The local business circle said with one voice that it is hard to feel any changes in the government’s corporate policies. Although President Moon Jae-in offered friendly gestures toward the business community before and after his recent visit to India, the distance between the government and the corporate community has not narrowed.

In fact, a series of happenings, including the prosecution’s raid on Samsung Electronics over allegations of “union busting,” Financial Supervisory Service head’s declaration of war against financial institutions, and the National Tax Service’s special audit on Hankook Tire, have happened after the president’s meeting with Samsung Electronics vice chairman Lee Jae-yong in India.

Accordingly, companies try to read the mixed messages from the government. An executive of a major company said, “The president previously visited Hanwha’s solar plant, drove a hydrogen car of Hyundai Motor, and dropped in LG’s Magok Science Park, but nothing has changed since then. There is still no tangible change.” He also said, “The president’s meeting with Samsung vice chairman Lee even seems to be an event designed to test public opinion.”

The business circle complains that the government's push for policies designed to strengthen regulations on businesses make it difficult for corporations to play a central role in job creation and innovation-based economic growth.

The Fair Trade Commission (FTC) is pushing to restrict normal transactions among sister companies of large business groups by treating them as unfair trading designed to increase the profits of chaebol owner families.

An executive from one of the four major groups said, "One side (President Moon) is speaking about investment, and the other side (the FTC and other government agencies) is pushing businesses into a corner. Who is willing to make investment under such circumstances?”

Another corporate executive said metaphorically, "To be honest, the companies that put their heads down on the ground are now holding their heads up and start to look around."

A corporate executive said, "It is necessary for the government to send a clear message to the market.”