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Fair Trade Commission chairman’s pride and prejudice

Posted September. 12, 2017 07:37,   

Updated September. 12, 2017 08:01


It was the courage to apply his intuition to the business that sets apart Steve Jobs, the late founder of Apple, from other entrepreneurs. Being a genius always relying on his commonly unacceptable instinct, Jobs had a way of treating his employees that was far from democratic. When Avie Tevanian, Apple’s Chief Software Technology Officer, said he was golfing, Jobs went ballistic, blaming him for being too laidback. Tevanian recounts that Jobs was a type of a boss who would “put others locked in a box and work alone”.

“Jobs was a dictator-type, but he foresaw the future and is respected for that. But Lee Hae-jin, former executive director and founder of Naver, did not offer such a vision to Korean society,” Fair Trade Commission Chairman Kim Sang-jo said in a recent interview. Kim has never met Jobs in person and talked with Lee only for about 10 minutes before; his courage to sum up the character of the two entrepreneurs so summarily almost inspires astonishment. It is understandable that Kim found the governance structure of Naver, which is categorized as semi large company, to be unpalatable, but Apple’s governance has always been a bone of contention. The difference is that while the government intervenes in business management in South Korea, stockholders’ meetings or the pension fund confer the opinion in the U.S.

Lee Jae-woong, the founder of another major portal Daum, denounced Saturday Kim’s interview, saying, “the eval‎uation was too arrogant to be uttered for the best internet company in both Korea and Japan”. Posting another writing on his Facebook on Monday, Lee defined himself as an innovative businessman, arguing that all entrepreneurs who are pushing for their adventure to find success must be respected. The controversy is cooling down after Chairman Kim made a public apology, calling his remarks inappropriate. Still, he needs to clarify his personal view, if not prejudice, on entrepreneurs.

The tit-for-tats between the head of the Fair Trade Commission, often dubbed “Prosecutor of the Economy," and the first generation of the Korean Silicon Valley, leaves a question mark on the future of regulations that the Korean government needs to pursue, which has encouraged many youths in the country to go for start-ups. “A start-up is not done just by starting it once, but it must face moments of restart-ups, going through difficult times,” said Twitter founder Jack Dorsey, which is worth taking heed. Chairman Kim needs to understand how the ecosystem of startups works, which is challenging constantly for their very existence. His role may be fixing unfair business practices, but mortifying businessmen with a baseless theory is nothing short of arrogation.