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[Opinion]“National Company”

Posted November. 18, 2003 23:05,   


Not many people are conferred the title “national” in front of their profession. In Korea, people dub Ahn Seong-gi as the “National Actor” and Jo Yong-pil as the “National Singer.” In today’s world, one easily becomes famous overnight and then can be easily forgotten overnight. However, these two have been loved by Koreans regardless of gender and age for the past generation. It has been possible because these two celebrities have lived up to the people’s expectations through their consistent devotion to their own fields and their endless innovation. People will call a celebrity a national star when the celebrity shows professionalism and even craftsmanship.

KCC Group and its founder, Chung Sang-young, announced that they secured a controlling stake in Hyundai Elevator Co., the de facto holding company of Hyundai Group. Hyun Jung-eun, the chairperson of Hyundai Elevator and the wife of the late Hyundai Group Chairman, Chung Mong-hun, launched an all-out counterattack the day before yesterday. Hyundai Elevator announced that it will issue 10 million new shares to reduce the percentage of stock owned by Chairman Chung. This is a desperate countermeasure to rejuvenate the company. Hyundai Group has been stained with drastic family disputes. One could not blame them if they acted within the boundary of law and market principle. This time, however, it is not desirable for Chairperson Hyun to talk about a “national company” as she did when she announced the issuance.

Koreans have a bitter memory about a national company. Kia Group used to be called the “National Company” as no one had a controlling stake and it was operated by a professional executive, rather than a family owner. In mid 1997, when the company was on the verge of collapse, the government failed to leave the company’s fate to the market mechanism because it was the “National Company.” The company’s insolvency was responsible for the Korea’s financial crisis. At that time, Korea was relieved by IMF’s bailout package. When Hyundai Motors took over Kia later, the creditors wrote off more than 7 trillion won. The burden was on the people because the damages of financial institutions were offset by taxpayers’ money.

Hyundai Group has received 30 to 40 trillion won in financial aid since May 2000. Minor shareholders and financial institutions have lost more than 10 trillion won due to capital decrease and write-offs. Profit is to a company as what singing is to a singer and acting is to an actor. A company’s duty is to supply products and services necessary to the economy, to create jobs, and to pay taxes. A company could call itself a national company only when it contributes in promoting the status of the country, not to speak of fulfilling its duty. A company that wastes taxpayers’ hard-earned money should not call itself a national company.