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Who will be chairman of FKI?

Posted February. 05, 2001 17:21,   


The issue of selecting and appointing the next chairman of the Federation of Korean Industries (FKI) is still vague. There only is speculation that SK chairman Sohn Kil-Seung might take the position.

A high-ranking person in the financial sector said Sunday that it¡¯s difficult to recommend the next chairman because the heads of major groups don¡¯t want the chairmanship.

¡°The leading figures in the financial circle saw their consensus to recommend the chairman of SK, Sohn Kil-Seung,¡± the financial source said.

However, from a corner of the financial circle, some object to Sohn taking the chairmanship, alleging that if the professional manager Sohn becomes the chairman of the FKI, the status of the federation with strong owner group characteristics might be confused, so it might be difficult to get cooperation of vice chairmen who also are group owners. Accordingly, in a joint meeting of the advisory and chairman groups held Feb. 12, it seems that severe disputes might arise between Sohn Kil-Seung camp and owner chairman camp?

Why is the Sohn Kil-Seung card so influential:

It is customary for owner-chairmen of the top four groups to take the chairmanship of the FKI. Samsung¡¯s Lee Kun-Hee, LG¡¯s Koo Bon-Moo and Hyundai-Kia Motors¡¯ Chung Mong-Koo resist strongly taking the position. The reason is because the next chairman of the federation should represent the financial sector in response to offense of the current regime in its later stage of ruling, and he might be harassed with the issue of providing political funds in the next presidential election.

¡°I wouldn¡¯t assume any outside position until my 60th birthday,¡± Samsung chairman Lee said.

LG does not even show any interest in the FKI.

Hyundai-Kia Motors¡¯ chairman Chung, who rose into a leading candidate, phoned Sohn Byong-Doo, a vice chairman of the FKI, and told him before the New Year¡¯s holiday, ¡°I would like to concentrate my energy on managing my automobile business, so please help my name to not be mentioned anymore.¡±

As a result, SK chairman Sohn suddenly rose to the leading candidate. The logic is that as a successful model of a professional manager, chairman Sohn takes the highest position in the financial circle, so the advance reform attack from the government might be avoided and the burden that group owners should stand in the front might be reduced.

The variable is the owner-preference atmosphere:

The biggest obstacle for chairman Sohn can be the ever-strong owner preference-atmosphere within the financial world. Sohn Byong-Doo, a vice chairman of the federation mentioned that the chairmanship of the FKI is not the position that can be captured only if someone wishes it, even if it is unavoidable and no one wants the job.

¡°Nobody can assure who will be the next chairman before the meeting held on Feb. 12,¡± Sohn Byong-Doo said.

At the same time, there is a rumor that the current chairman Kim Kak-Joong will be reappointed and that the names of the midsized groups¡¯ heads, such as Hyosung¡¯s Cho Suck-Rai and Hanwha chairman Kim Seung-Youn, who are active in the FKI, also are mentioned. Sohn, the vice chairman, already has tried to win a consensus in a meeting 29 members of the chairman group and advisory group by turns from last Thursday.

The 27th chairman of the FKI with two years of tenure will be selected at the regular general meeting Feb. 15 in the manner of ratification of the decision of the joint meeting between the advisory and chairman groups.

Park Won-Jae parkwj@donga.com