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386 Generation Out to Save Kim Woo-choong

Posted April. 28, 2005 23:41,   


“Save Kim Woo-choong.”

The 386 generation—people in their 30s, educated in the 1980s and born in the 1960s—are rolling up their sleeves again to save Kim Woo-choong, the former chairman of the Daewoo Group, which they used to work for.

In 1995, Kim launched the new slogan, ‘World Management,’ under which he hired roughly 100 386-generation workers, mostly graduates of Seoul National University, and positioned them at the frontiers of world management.

Kim’s idea was nothing short of shocking at that time because nobody was willing to hire the 386 generation due to their activist history of fighting against military dictatorship. However, Kim himself participated in the job interviews and gave them a chance to discuss management issues at every opportunity.

Most of these former student movement leaders assumed spearheading roles on the business frontier such as the Bupyeong factory of Daewoo Motor, and were reborn as management professionals. However, in the wake of the nation’s financial crisis in 1997 that led to the collapse of the Daewoo Group, the professionals left the company to make a living for themselves.

Now, they are gathering together 10 years after they disbanded and putting their heads together to save Kim, who is on the run and hiding in foreign countries like France and Vietnam.

The key members of this gathering are Kim Yoon (President of the Research Center of Management Development), who entered Seoul National University (SNU) in 1981 as a Western history major, and has served time in jail on the charge of leading rallies on campus; Lee Cheol-wu (Director of System Engineering), who entered the same university in 1981 as a law major, and devoted himself to the labor movement; and Kim Yeong-cheol (Consultant on management-labor relations), who entered SNU in 1983 and also majored in law.

They decided to hold a launching ceremony for the “Gathering of Daewoo People for Kim Woo-choong and the Korean Economy” (tentative title) at auditorium of the Korea Democracy Foundation on May 1 and make a concerted effort to build a social atmosphere favorable to the return of the former Daewoo Group chairman.

“Even though there are various views on former chairman Kim and the Daewoo Group even among ourselves, we agreed that we, at least, have to do something for a declining 70-year old man,” said Kim Yoon. Whether or not their attempt to repay Kim’s kindness is to succeed will be determined in August, at which time critical decisions on pardons and restoration of rights for corrupt business figures will be finalized.

Young-Chan Yoon yyc11@donga.com