Go to contents

Immorality Becomes a Wrongful but Sweeping Criticism against Entrepreneurs

Immorality Becomes a Wrongful but Sweeping Criticism against Entrepreneurs

Posted August. 17, 2003 21:41,   


“Blow yourself up, President”

“Strife! Strife! Strife!”

Dozens of protest placards with eerie slogans are posted on a financial building in disorder in Seoul. The company workers have been on partial strike for over four months since the early May as unionists demanded a 56.6% of pay raise while the management proposed the 22% increase at maximum. The 22nd floor, where the directors` rooms sit on, is dominated by union members hooting at the company directors passing by.

“It`s miserable,” said a director of the company, losing his nerve at the scene. Saying that the unionists are asking for “compensation for the twice-missed-out opportunities for salary raise after the late-1997 financial crisis” while overlooking the company’s situation, the director noted that it was inscrutable that the unionists went too far to use offensive languages against the management.

Concerns are arising that anti-entrepreneur sentiment is demoralizing entrepreneurship and up to threatening the nation‘s economic growth potential.

Hostility toward and prejudice against the entrepreneurs are prevailing in the Korean society, which makes the more business-hostile environment: Violent labor unions often use violence to their company managers in lock up, the government points its finger first at the business as reform target in early days of inauguration, and the Korean public equate entrepreneurs with those who became rich overnight with immorality.

A series of recent surveys clearly show how serious the anti-entrepreneur sentiment has become among Koreans. According to a survey, conducted by Korea Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KCCI) on 2,509 men and women in their teens through sixties regarding the impression about Korean enterprises, three in every five respondents expressed negative opinions. Among the respondents, 52.7% said (the impression about enterprises is) “somewhat negative” while 6.6% said, “very negative”. As of reasons, the respondents noted nepotism, over-expansion of the business, a back-scratching alliance of government and big business, widening gap between the “haves” and “have-nots”, etc.

In a survey of Accenture, a multinational consulting firm, Korea ranked the bottom out of 22 nations in the public conception of enterprises. Korea lagged behind not only advanced nations including the U.S., UK, and Japan, but also China, South Africa, and Argentina.

Some people even misunderstood an enterprise as an organization for social works rather than for seeking profit. Hyundai Motor Company, not long ago, had to suffer a bitter insult from members of a civic group, of which was unknown and irrelevant to Hyundai. The group members flocked in front of the company`s headquarters in Yangjae-dong, Seocho-gu, Seoul, threatening “Provide us with expenses for visiting the U.S. and demonstrating against it, or we will take a shower of buckets of feces.”

Sohn Byung-du, an advisor at the Federation of Korean Industries (FKI) said, “Anti-entrepreneur sentiment in Korea has contributed to shrinking corporate investment and companies which are leaving offshore.” According to him, entrepreneurs lose self-pride and passion by being treated as a good Samaritan or as a criminal gangster. “An enterprise is an economic entity, which generates wealth in society in its quest for profit”, said Sohn, adding “It is true that enterprises have many problems to correct themselves, but a social tendency to criticize all businesses and businessmen all alike due to malpractices of a small fraction of players should be corrected as soon as possible.”

Yeon-Su Shin ysshin@donga.com