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[Reporter's view] Staff at blacklisted firm caught in trap

[Reporter's view] Staff at blacklisted firm caught in trap

Posted November. 20, 2000 11:58,   


An interview was held with a mid-level executive of a construction company that has been blacklisted for shutdown.

Before being blacklisted, the office bustled with activity with prospective customers knocking on the door. However, after the announcement of the company¡¯s blacklisting, the phones have stopped ringing. It is at times joyful to hear the ring of a telephone, even if the call is a mis-dial. Many of his staff have quit, and he spends days at the office with nothing to do but stare at the empty desks.

"If the company could pull itself out of bankruptcy proceedings, I could at least receive severance retirement money," he noted. "Should I hang on a little longer? I have nowhere to go. What shall I do about my monthly living expenses if I`m not paid this month?"

He spends sleepless nights mired in worries.

Just 10 years ago, as he joined the company, such a situation was unimaginable. He had joined one of the well-established conglomerates. He had dreams of purchasing his own home in a short time. Not long afterward, cracks began to mark his spotless dream.

Rather than diverting all effort toward work, many at the company had their hands full as they busily searched out reports on scandals surrounding the company owner. At times, the staff had to go around and purchase tens of thousands of magazines that published scandalous activities of the company owner and burn them in the dark of night. All such work was paid for by the money that came from high-interest bank loans.

The assets in the company`s accounting book valued at hundreds of billion won are worth a mere few billions, and some are non-existent.

A slush fund was maintained through inflated on-site wage calculations, then used for lobbying in order to obtain more orders. The actual construction then had less money to fund the project itself and led to shoddy work, which threatened to pull the company under when accidents occurred.

At the time, he understood all conglomerates to be much the same. He had not expected such misdeeds to become the very cause of driving thousands of the company`s workers and countless more in the supplier companies out onto the streets.

"Was it just my company that had the vicious cycle between the non-transparent management structure and employees scrambling to cover up the upper-management misdeeds?" he pondered.

Sin Yeon-Su ysshin@donga.com