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FTC fines SK Inc. and SK Group Chairman W1.6b over SK Siltron case

By Hong Yoo

Published : Dec. 22, 2021 - 16:49

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Yook Sung-kwon, FTC director on business group policy, holds a briefing to explain their decision to fine SK Inc. and SK Group Chairman Chey Tae-won. (Yonhap) Yook Sung-kwon, FTC director on business group policy, holds a briefing to explain their decision to fine SK Inc. and SK Group Chairman Chey Tae-won. (Yonhap)
South Korea’s antitrust watchdog announced Wednesday that it would fine SK Inc. and SK Group Chairman Chey Tae-won 1.6 billion won ($1.3 million) over allegations that his personal purchase in LG Siltron shares back in 2017 had violated the law.

The decision was made a week after Chey had attended the Fair Trade Commission’s full-member session in person. Chey’s attendance was rare as the watchdog does not require the person involved to be present. Chey, in the session, claimed that his acquisition of shares was to defend business operation rights and not to seek private interests.

The FTC, however, said SK shared the “unfair business opportunity” with Chey.

The watchdog closed the case by slapping Chey with the fine, and did not transfer it to the prosecution for further investigation.

In January 2017, the conglomerate acquired a 51 percent stake in LG’s silicon wafers manufacturing unit, now named SK Siltron.

In April that year, SK additionally purchased a 19.6 percent stake while Chey acquired another 29.4 percent stake.

The FTC said SK was capable of buying the remaining 29.4 percent stake even after acquiring 70.6 percent of Siltron shares, but instead handed the opportunity to Chey without a reasonable reason.

The antitrust watchdog also pointed out that the bid was negotiated with Woori Bank behind closed doors and that SK Inc. “directly and indirectly” aided Chey in profiting from the deal.

According to the FTC, the value of the 29.4 percent share in Siltron that Chairman Chey had acquired in 2017 has surged by 1,967 billion won in 2020.

SK Group said it is hard to understand the FTC’s decision as they had acquired the shares via an open auction and Chey had spent his own money in order to protect the local semiconductor market as overseas investors had moved to buy the stake.

“Today’s announcement by the FTC does not properly reflect the facts and legal judgments confirmed during the FTC session’s deliberation, and almost repeats the arguments in the existing review report,” said SK Group.

It added that as soon as they receive the resolution from the FTC, they plan to take necessary measures after closely reviewing the details.