The Korea Chamber of Commerce and Industry on Wednesday said it has set a goal to collect a combined 31 billion won ($23.4 million) from the nation’s top 10 chaebol groups in an aim to support Busan’s bid for the 2030 World Expo.
According to the largest business lobby here, the “special membership fees” were decided based on discussions with the companies during a general assembly in September, with their asset value being the key criteria.
Samsung Group has pledged to pay 7 billion won, including 4.7 billion won paid by its crown jewel Samsung Electronics alone.
SK Group, with Chairman Chey Tae-won who doubles as the KCCI chief, is to match that with 7 billion won as well.
Hyundai Motor Group, LG Group and Lotte Group also offered to pay 4 billion won, 3 billion won and 2 billion won, respectively.
“The money was collected via a transparent method,” said Woo Tae-hee, executive vice chairman of the KCCI, during an urgent press conference held in the afternoon following news reports on the extent of the sums of the chaebol donations.
“The acquired funds will mainly be spent to establish online platforms dedicated to promoting Busan’s Expo bid and related consulting and promotional activities,” he added.
Woo expressed regret over the leaked amounts donated by individual groups, saying it could hurt the port city’s strategy to win the bid amid a heated race with other candidate cities, including Rome and Saudi Arabia’s capital Riyadh, among others.
“Companies have voluntarily set up their payment goals. But by revealing the details of the expenses, it is true there is a risk to our strategic exposure,” he said.
The KCCI is responsible for the nation’s efforts to host the 2030 Expo on behalf of the private sector, with Chey serving as the co-chairman of the bid committee together with Prime Minister Han Duck-soo.
Despite the KCCI’s denial of forcing members to pay the fees, concerns were raised that businesses could have had their arms twisted to chip in money for the project in the name of “national interest,” as in several occasions in the past.
Regarding the concerns, Woo reiterated their fund had been acquired by conglomerates’ voluntary desire to participate in activities held to support the Busan Expo bid, which could offer new business opportunities with international partners.
“If necessary, the KCCI is willing to go through audits initiated by external authorities after the bidding process is over,” he said.
The World Expo is one of the world’s top three international events, along with the Olympics and soccer's World Cup, with its economic impact estimated to reach a whopping 61 trillion won.
Competition is fierce to host the 2030 Expo. The host city will be decided by a secret vote among 170 Bureau International des Expositions member countries in November next year.