The Korea Herald


New FKI chief vows to ensure transparency to 'clean up dark past' as chaebol rejoin

Top 4 chaebol groups confirmed to rejoin after nearly 6-year hiatus

By Park Han-na

Published : Aug. 22, 2023 - 15:33

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Ryu Jin (center), Poongsan Group CEO and new chairperson of the Federation of Korean Industries, delivers an inauguration speech for his term at the FKI headquarters in Yeouido, Seoul, Tuesday. (FKI) Ryu Jin (center), Poongsan Group CEO and new chairperson of the Federation of Korean Industries, delivers an inauguration speech for his term at the FKI headquarters in Yeouido, Seoul, Tuesday. (FKI)

The new chairperson for the Federation of Korean Industries vowed that the business lobby group would prevent government-business collusion and push for a transparent corporate culture to “clean up the dark past” of a massive influence-peddling scandal it was embroiled in 2016.

In its ad hoc general meeting held Tuesday, the lobby group appointed Ryu Jin, chairman of Poongsan Group, as the new chairperson of the FKI. The meeting was an arena where it announced the kick-starting of the rebranded organization with a new chair and new policies.

“We will clean up the dark past and untangle the knots,” Ryu said. “We will practice ethical management and ensure that a transparent corporate culture takes root in the entire business community."

Ditching its role as a platform facilitating close ties between the government and big business is the FKI’s urgent and major task. Public trust for the organization sharply declined after it was found to have been involved in a high-profile scandal that resulted in the impeachment and eventual ousting of former President Park Geun-hye.

At the time, key member companies, including the country's big four conglomerates -- Samsung, Hyundai Motor, SK and LG -- sought to keep a distance from the FKI by terminating membership.

With the FKI’s plan to be reborn as a think tank-cum-business lobby group through its integration with the Korea Economic Research Institute, an FKI-affiliated think tank, approved during Tuesday’s meeting, the country’s top four chaebol groups became members of the new FKI. Though they withdrew from the former FKI, they had remained members of the think tank.

Among five Samsung affiliates who were members of the FKI, Samsung Securities was the only one that decided not to rejoin. Samsung Electronics, Samsung SDI, Samsung Life and Samsung Fire & Marine Insurance will be members of the revamped lobbying group.

The four conglomerates' trust in Ryu, who served as vice chairperson at the FKI for two decades, was crucial in their opting for reentry, according to the new chairman.

"I think they decided to come back with trust in my 20 years of experience in this group, which enables me to put forward better ways to block collusion between the government and enterprises," he said.

To prevent ill practices, the FKI plans to establish an ethics committee and enforce charter of ethics to "strictly resist and address external pressure or undue influence."

"We will define and practice strict ethical standards that go beyond mere compliance monitoring purposes, to meet the expectations of the people and match the heightened national prestige," Ryu said.

Ryu said the FKI will play a role of a springboard for the Korean economy to take global leaps forward.

"The world is undergoing an unprecedented transformation. Global supply chains are being realigned extensively, and the international order is being shaken due to conflicts between superpowers that affect global security," he said.

Ryu's extensive business network in the US and Japan is expected to help the lobby group conduct research and raise voices on pending issues that Korean companies are struggling to tackle alone, such as the US Biden administration's flagship climate legislation, the Inflation Reduction Act.

"Based on the relatively abundant experience that I have accumulated in the global arena, (I believe) that I would be able to help seek out breakthroughs for the Korean economy to achieve further growth," he said.

Since 2020, Ryu has been on the board of trustees of the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a Washington-based think tank.

"We will remain at the forefront of helping the Korean economy overcome these challenges as it continues to evolve. As a highly renowned economic think tank both at home and abroad, we will present a road map and outline detailed action plans for the Korean economy," Ryu added.