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Published : 2014-03-16 21:03
Updated : 2014-03-16 21:03

Korea Communications Commission’s chair-nominee Choi Sung-joon vowed to eliminate excessive, illegal smartphone subsidies in the nation’s telecom market on Saturday.

“The vicious cycle causing users to run out and buy cheaper smartphones at dawn should end. I will put the utmost effort into eradicating excessive smartphone subsidies with several policies,” Choi, a former judge, told reporters on his way to work in Gwacheon city.

His remark came one day after his nomination by President Park Geun-hye on Friday. His mission seems to be clear as his appointment came in the middle of the government’s war against smartphone subsidies by three mobile carriers. The government recently imposed the strongest-ever sanctions on the three as the subsidy war has continued despite hefty fines. They were imposed with a suspension of business operations for 45 days and a fine of 30 billion won ($28 million).

The malpractice has been considered the root cause of the slow growth of the telecom industry. 
Choi Sung-joon

Despite Choi’s determination to restore order to the market through the reform drive, doubt over whether he can carry out his mission is rising due to his lack of experience and expertise in the telecom sector.

Before the nomination, Choi had served in the Seoul High Court as a senior judge and it is the first time the KCC will have a former judge as its head.

“It’s like picking an ice hockey coach for the management of a soccer team,” said Yoo Seung-hee, a Democratic Party lawmaker and a member of the National Assembly’s Science, ICT, Future Planning, Broadcasting and Communications Committee.

Some industry watchers also remained skeptical of his political leadership and ability to streamline related rules and regulations to bring fair competition into the market. The KCC’s former chairman Lee Kyeong-jae failed to serve his second term largely because the bills proposed by the KCC, including the much anticipated revision to the Telecommunications Law, were not passed by the National Assembly in February.

Including the subsidy issue, much of the KCC’s work requires stronger political leadership as the regulator has to cooperate with congressmen and other ministries such as the Ministry of Science, ICT and Future Planning for the future of the industry.

Former chairman Lee also ascribed the failure of the revision to the political situation last month.

“The proposed bill is not going well probably because of handset makers’ lobbying,’’ an official from a local telecom company said.

Min Kyung-wook, a presidential spokesman, was upbeat about the nomination, saying Choi would make impartial judgments.

“He is expected to work rationally and fairly based on his expertise and knowledge as a judge,” said Min.

The KCC plans to submit relevant documents early this week to the National Assembly for the confirmation hearing. When the nominee passes the hearing, which will take place at the end of this month, he officially will be appointed next month.

For the confirmation hearing, Choi was confident. “By and large, I have lived honestly and flawlessly.”

His assets stands at a total of 3.5 billion won according to the Supreme Court of Korea’s Public Ethic Committee. “Most of the assets were inherited. I know the price of my house, where I have lived for 22 years, has seen a sharp rise. I have some other assets, which I don’t think will be a problem,” he told reporters on Friday.

In his 28-year career, Choi has served as the president of the Chuncheon District Court and as the chief judge at both the Seoul Central District Court and the Patent Court of Korea.

By Shin Ji-hye (shinjh@heraldcorp.com)

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