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Moon’s policy aide to meet top corporate brass over Japanese concerns

Seoul says Tokyo’s moves are aimed at triggering economic uncertainties to raise public concerns

Kim Sang-jo, chief state policy secretary of South Korean President Moon Jae-in, will discuss the countermeasures against any negative impact of Japan’s trade restrictions with the top brass of the country’s five biggest conglomerates this week, according to Cheong Wa Dae on Monday. 

Chief state policy secretary Kim Sang-jo (Yonhap)
Chief state policy secretary Kim Sang-jo (Yonhap)

The meeting will most likely take place on Thursday, according to news reports.

“The date is flexible,” said Kim, adding that it is yet to be finalized. The five conglomerates include Samsung, Hyundai Motor, SK, LG and Lotte. The companies have not yet confirmed their representatives for the meeting.

Instead of the groups’ owners, Kim is expected to meet with the vice chairmen of the five conglomerates.

Likely attendees include Samsung Vice Chairman Yoon Boo-keun and LG Vice Chairman Kwon Young-soo.

“I already met some of them in groups and individually over the past one month, and we keep in touch when needed,” said Kim, who moved into Cheong Wa Dae as the chief policy adviser for the president in July after serving as the Fair Trade Commission chief.

The top presidential policy aide’s remarks are interpreted as the government’s intention to emphasize its role in addressing any economic crisis triggered by the diplomatic feud with Japan in cooperation with the private sector.

On Monday, Hong Nam-ki, deputy prime minister for economy, also highlighted the government’s efforts to establish practical measures against the Japanese curbs by communicating with the companies that would be affected.

Regarding the genuine purpose of the Japanese government’s decision to remove Korea from its whitelist of 27 nations that receive preferential trade treatment starting Aug. 28, the Korean government underscored that Tokyo’s action is aimed at giving psychological pressure more than anything.

“The direct impacts of the restrictions are not confirmed yet,” a government official on the condition of anonymity said. “There will be no case of Korean plants stopping their operations because of lack of supplies from Japan.”

Seoul is more focused on analyzing Tokyo’s intentions that seem to be targeting the psychological side of players in the Korean market and economy, according to the officials.

“What’s more important than the direct impact of Japan’s curbs is market uncertainty triggered by the action,” the official said. “What Abe really intends is to raise public anxiety by spooking the Korean markets.”

Meanwhile, ahead of the slated meeting with Kim, Vice Chairman Lee Jae-yong convened a meeting Monday with the chief executive officers of Samsung Electronics’ major businesses, according to the company. 

Vice Chairman of Samsung Electronics Lee Jae-yong (Yonhap)
Vice Chairman of Samsung Electronics Lee Jae-yong (Yonhap)

Samsung Semiconductor Division Vice Chairman & CEO Kim Ki-nam, Memory Business President Jin Gyo-young, System LSI Business President Kang In-yup, Foundry Business President Chung Eun-seung, Visual Display Business President Han Jong-hee, Samsung Display CEO Lee Dong-hoon, Samsung Electro-Mechanics CEO Lee Yun-tae and Samsung SDI CEO Jeon Young-hyun attended the meeting.

“Be on the alert, but do not fear the situation,” Lee said during the meeting. “We should create new opportunities (from the situation) in order to take a leap.”

The meeting with the heads of affiliates -- especially display, battery and other parts makers -- is viewed as the company’s intention to stress the control tower’s responsibility in managing the overall value chain process of Samsung’s electronics businesses.

“Lee is expected to visit the offices of affiliates to check their preparation levels,” said a Samsung official.

By Song Su-hyun (