President Park Geun-hye voiced strong objections Thursday against the widely-denounced practice of big businesses coercing small franchise distributors to accept products in excess of their capacities, saying such a practice should never happen under her government.
Park made the remark during a dinner meeting with small business owners as the already-high public outrage over the practice rose further following Tuesday's suicide of a distribution shop owner for a local liquor maker after he suffered from coerced purchases and mounting debts.
"There was an unfortunate incident where a distribution store owner killed himself after suffering from" forced purchases, Park said. "This is something that should never happen under the new government that is committed to rooting out unfair trade practices and firming up fair market principles."
It is the first time that Park has spoken about the practice.
Public anger erupted earlier this month after the disclosure of a phone conversation between a sales representative of Namyang Dairy, one of South Korea's largest dairy producers, and a distributor. In the recording, the salesman is heard threatening and cursing at the store owner when he refuses to accept more products than he can sell.
On Tuesday, a distributor for Baesangmyun Brewery, one of the country's biggest traditional liquor makers, was found dead in his stockroom. He left a suicide note saying he could no longer stand forced purchases of products and mounting debts.
Park has championed protecting small businesses under her campaign pledge of "economic democratization," a cause that calls mainly for an end to conglomerates or other big businesses abusing their market dominance to prey on smaller partner firms.
On Thursday, Park renewed the commitment.
"Energizing small- and medium-sized firms is an important task if we are going to create many quality jobs and restore the middle class," she said. "My government and I will put all our energy into resolving troubles for SMEs and creating an environment where they can grow vigorously." (Yonhap News)