The Korea Herald


Lawmakers up ante against tycoons

By 이선영

Published : June 24, 2011 - 18:42

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The feud between parliamentarians and some of the nation’s corporate leaders escalated Thursday, as politicians threatened legal action if the businessmen defied their request to testify before parliament next week.

Members of the National Assembly’s Knowledge Economy Committee decided to call to a public hearing it is organizing three of the nation’s major business organizations’ chiefs ― Huh Chang-soo of the Korea Federation of Industries, Sohn Kyung-shik of the Korea Chamber of Commerce and Industry and Lee Hee-beom of the Korea Employers’ Federation.

“Without fixing unfair practices by big conglomerates, we can’t achieve anything toward the harmonious co-existence of small and large companies,” said Rep. Kim Young-hwan of the main opposition Democratic Party, who chairs the committee. “We, the parliamentarians, must do this job, because no one else in our society can take on the powerful conglomerates,” he said.

At the hearing, to be held Wednesday, the lawmakers plan to demand that Huh explain his earlier remarks that labeled several ruling and opposition party platforms, including the repealing of planned tax reductions, as “populist.”

Separately, the Environment and Labor Committee has requested that Cho Nam-ho, chairman of Hanjin Heavy Industries and Construction Co. testify on his firm’s labor-management disputes at a hearing on Thursday.

“We must hear from Chairman Cho because he is the key person involved in the labor dispute,” the committee chairman Rep. Kim Sung-soon of the DP said. “If he defies our request, we will have to take legal action,” he added.

A person who dismisses the parliament’s request to testify at a hearing is punishable with up to three years in jail or a fine of up to 10 million won.

Business leaders, including Huh, are reluctant to comply with the request for their appearance, viewing it as a way for the politicians to try to tame them.

Huh, who runs the nation’s No. 7 conglomerate GS Group, may boycott the June 23 forum, local media reported.

“The possibility of an expert from the organization taking part in the hearing is greater than that of Chairman Huh appearing,” an FKI official said Friday.

Antagonism has grown between politicians and the business community over policy moves to scrap a plan to reduce tax breaks for companies and to expand costly welfare projects.

At a meeting with the finance minister Friday, Huh continued his attack on the politicians and government, saying he wasn’t sure whether they were truly working for the country and its people.

“I wonder if the pure and clear duty of working for the future of the country is being performed in important decision-making processes these days,” he said.

Earlier this week, the tycoon said that he was opposed to the plan to remove tax benefits for businesses and denounced a political move to halve university tuition fees as impulsive. The business circle will not remain silent on “populist policies” formulated with next year’s parliamentary elections in mind, he said

By Lee Sun-young (