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Lee seeks chaebol support on shared growth

In meeting with business leaders, president stresses conglomerates’ social responsibility


President Lee Myung-bak on Wednesday drummed up support from chiefs of the nation’s largest businesses for his new socioeconomic vision to reduce disparities.

In a meeting with the heads of 26 conglomerates, Lee explained the idea of “ecosystemic development,” which he put forward in his Liberation Day speech earlier this month, while praising some tycoons’ decisions to donate personal wealth for charity.

“I think it is important to create a social atmosphere in which businesses can be appreciated,” Lee was quoted as saying during the meeting by his spokesman Park Jeong-ha.

“I believe we can protect the capitalist market economy and continue to develop our society only when we seek ecosystemic development.”
President Lee Myung-bak meets business leaders at Cheong Wa Dae on Wednesday. (Yonhap News)
President Lee Myung-bak meets business leaders at Cheong Wa Dae on Wednesday. (Yonhap News)

The Federation of Korean Industries said during the meeting that its members, the nation’s top 30 conglomerates, plan to hire 12.7 percent more employees compared to the 110,000 that were hired last year.

The 30 conglomerates will hire a record 124,000 new workers this year in line with the government’s efforts to promote “shared growth,” the FKI said.

Lee emphasized that social responsibility of large conglomerates has become much more important as the market economy evolves into a new stage based on the lessons of the U.S. financial crisis in 2008 and the ongoing debt crises.

Lee also pledged that his government will continue efforts to root out irregularities that stymie the conglomerates’ voluntary efforts for sustainable development.

In the Aug. 15 national address, Lee called for “a new model of the market economy that evolves from greedy management to ethical management; from the freedom of capital to the responsibility of capital; and from the vicious circle of the rich getting richer and the poor getting poorer to mutual prosperity.”

A day after Lee’s address, former Hyundai affiliates announced the establishment of a 500 billion won charity foundation, 200 billion won of which will come from the private coffers of Rep. Chung Mong-joon, major shareholder of Hyundai Heavy Industries. On Sunday, Hyundai-Kia Automotive Group chairman Chung Mong-koo said he will donate 500 billion won of his personal wealth for charity.

Chairmen of the conglomerates on Wednesday each spoke about their plans to contribute towards an ecosystemic development such as increasing business investments or providing better vocational or on-the-job training programs to boost employment of high school graduates.

Social and political pressure on chaebol has continued to escalate with most acute criticism focused on some chaebol affiliates encroaching on smaller firms’ business areas such as restaurants or procurement of materials for maintenance, repair and operation.

Some business giants have also been chided for taking advantage of their dominant market status to squeeze suppliers until they cough up the lowest possible prices.

By Kim So-hyun (sophie@heraldcorp.com)
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