“South Korea’s conglomerates have captured officials and politicians, and even dominated the media. It’s expanding into a social pathological phenomenon.” This is what South Korea’s antitrust chief Kim Sang-jo said, not at a gathering of leftists or a political assembly, but at an international conference on fair competition held in Serbia. Kim went on to criticize the entire system of a family owning a conglomerate, saying, “The grandchildren of the conglomerates’ founders, who have taken the helm of businesses, are absorbed in seeking private interests and keeping their vested rights, not taking a risk.”
Of course, there are mixed opinions about the role of a conglomerate and its owner family in the country’s economy and some voice concern about the side effects of the economy growing dependent on conglomerates. However, it is an exaggeration to say that the growth of conglomerates is not helping the development of the overall economy and is even hampering the growth of small and mid-sized companies, which are largely in charge of job creation. Inaccuracy is also found in Kim’s remark that “the total assets of the 10 largest companies are equal to around 80 percent of South Korea’s GDP, but only around 940,000 people (3.5 percent) are directly employed by them.” It is nonsense to compare the concept of total assets and the GDP in the first place, and the claim disregards jobs created in related manufacturing and distribution services.
His speech is not only inappropriate and biased, but also inaccurate. It’s uncertain whether the part that the top 10 conglomerates have captured officials, politicians, and the media is his personal view or an official stance as the country’s antitrust watchdog.