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KEB union threatens walkout against merger

Hana Financial Group chairman Kim Seung-yu speaks during a news conference on Sunday. (Park Hyun-koo/The Korea Herald)
Hana Financial Group chairman Kim Seung-yu speaks during a news conference on Sunday. (Park Hyun-koo/The Korea Herald)
Unionized workers of Korea Exchange Bank have mapped out a plan for a general strike, calling on Hana Financial Group to scrap its preliminary deal with Lone Star Funds.

Their plan comes after Hana Financial signed a revised preliminary deal to take over KEB from Lone Star over the weekend.

Despite the two parties’ recent agreement to lower the takeover price, the KEB union said it is against Hana’s move to pay Lone Star huge management premiums.

“According to the situation, we could choose to stage a general strike,” a union leader said on Monday.

Concerning Hana chairman Kim Seung-yu’s remarks that the group “would ensure the job security of KEB employees if the group successfully acquires the lender,” the union leader said, “He is not in a position to comment on the issue.”

Many KEB unionized workers criticized the Hana chairman for trying to placate angry sentiment over the Financial Services Commission’s alleged endorsement of the Hana-Lone Star deal.

The union, in coordination with a variety of labor unions, will rally in front of the FSC building in Seoul on Tuesday.

Criticism of the financial regulator is growing in the political sector.

The ruling Grand National Party and the main opposition Democratic Party announced they would not gloss over the situation under which the FSC is poised to allow Lone Star to reap huge gains from the KEB sale to Hana.

FSC chairman Kim Seok-dong told reporters Monday that the regulator will approve or reject the Hana-Lone Star deal after finalizing a probe into the allegations that the fund has been a non-financial investor, which is banned from owning a local bank under the laws.

Last month, a group of small shareholders of KEB filed an injunction with the Constitutional Court to suspend the validity of the FSC’s Nov. 18 action on the fund.

The injunction also included their petition to ban the regulator from endorsing the M&A deal between Lone Star and Hana Financial while legal uncertainties remained.

“The regulator has not taken any measures on speculation that Lone Star owns golf courses in Japan (which hints that the fund is a non-financial investor),” they said.

The allegation that the FSC had already been informed that Lone Star was non-financial capital and provided the fund with a certain period of time to sell off the golf courses.

Lone Star has been suspected of owning 130 golf courses worth about 3.7 trillion won ($3.2 billion) in Japan.

The nation’s banking laws ban an investor non-financial assets exceeding 2 trillion won from controlling a Korean bank.

Further, speculation recently arose that the U.S. fund is moving to sell the golf courses following criticism among ruling and opposition lawmakers as well as the KEB union in Korea.

By Kim Yon-se (kys@heraldcorp.com)
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