Lee Sang-chul, South Korea’s former communications minister and chief of mobile carrier LG Uplus, is currently advising China’s Huawei, according to industry sources Thursday.
On the official homepage of Huawei, Lee is named as chief adviser of Huawei, The Korea Herald confirmed.
Former communications minister and chief of mobile carrier LG Uplus Lee Sang-chul (Yonhap)
The website also described Lee as standing adviser of LG Uplus and LG Group. But LG Group denied the indication, saying he had never been an adviser to the group. “Huawei might have intended to enjoy the halo effect of LG‘s brand name (by recruiting Lee),” said a group official.
Lee, former standing adviser for LG Uplus, seems to have been keeping his position at Huawei under wraps, possibly in view of the escalating rivalry in the industry between the two countries.
He was recently seen at a Huawei booth at the Mobile World Congress in Spain in February, sparking speculations on his links with the Chinese firm. Lee reportedly visited the event personally to give a lecture at the Huawei booth.
Lee’s association with Huawei comes at a time of soured relations between the two neighboring nations over the deployment of a US anti-missile system on the Korean Peninsula.
“We have concerns about not only the industry’s competitiveness but also national security at a time of highly unstable diplomatic conditions,” said an industry insider. “It is worrisome that a former minister with deep knowledge about the central role of a country’s communications network system has become an adviser to a company close to the Chinese government.”
Meanwhile, LG Uplus said the company was not in a position to talk about the former leader’s personal activities.
“Lee’s term as a standing adviser for LG Uplus expired in March, and we can’t comment on his position at Huawei,” said a company spokesman.
Under Lee’s leadership in 2013, LG Uplus became the first among three Korean telecom companies to install Huawei’s LTE network equipment. The move had prompted some opposition from the local industry, with US politicians vocally claiming the move raises the possibility of espionage risks from China.
Lee, then-vice chairman and CEO of LG Uplus, asserted there was no security problem in using the Huawei equipment.
Upon the controversy, LG Uplus decided not to install the Chinese equipment near US Army bases in the country. The Huawei equipment is now installed in some areas in Seoul, Gangwon Province and northern Gyeonggi Province.
The security issue with the Chinese communications network equipment remains as a point of dispute in the telecom industry.
SK Telecom recently faced criticism for its move to buy Huawei’s LTE equipment to be installed on Jeju Island.
By Song Su-hyun (firstname.lastname@example.org)