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Kim Woo-joong’s Return Provoking Strong Criticism

Posted June. 06, 2005 06:19,   


The homecoming of Kim Woo-joong, the ex-chairman of the Daewoo Group, which is taking place just around corner, is triggering criticism that calls for the re-evaluation of the merits and demerits of Kim and the Daewoo Group.

Currently, tension between the two groups which have opposite positions regarding Kim’s return is increasing. While former “Daewoo Men” who welcome Kim’s return are busy preparing for Kim’s homecoming, the victims of the “Daewoo Crisis” are also gathering together to deal with it. Politicians are also vehemently arguing one against another over the evaluation of Kim’s past activity.

Meanwhile, through the website “Hi Daewoo,” which demonstrates the history of the Daewoo Group and Kim’s activities (www.hidaewoo.com), the group’s former executives are writing down messages to express how they are deeply moved by his return. In addition to this, statements that call for the re-concentration of the Daewoo Men’s efforts are continuously recorded on the website.

Jung Joo-ho, president of the Daewoo Men Community, who also served as a chief of the company’s restructuring headquarters when the Daewoo Group collapsed, wrote down his position in a website titled, “Message Ahead of Former Chairman Kim Woo-joong’s Return to Korea.” Through this message, Chung asked former executives to concentrate their efforts to ensure the proper evaluation of the merits and demerits of the Daewoo Group.

On the other hand, the Committee of Daewoo Crisis Victims, which largely consists of the former small shareholders of Daewoo Group affiliates, opened a website in a portal site, Daum (cafe.daum.net/daewoojuju), and decided to hold an urgent meeting on June 10.

“This meeting will provide victims with a place where they can discuss how to deal with their trauma from now on, issue a statement, and collect victim cases,” said a source from the committee.

Rep. Kim Jong-yull of the ruling Uri Party who met Kim in Vietnam last month made an appearance on a radio program last Saturday and said, “Given the people’s ill feelings over the Daewoo crisis, Kim should placate them by expressing his regret for it and showing that he is enduring legal punishment.”

He also added, “Whether or not to pardon him should be decided in accordance with general standards after seeing his sincere apology.”

Rep. Lee Hahn-koo of the opposition Grand National Party, who served as a head of the Daewoo Economy Research Institute, said on the same program, “Kim should return to Korea as soon as possible and face the re-evaluation on himself and the Daewoo Group,” adding, “It is desirable for him to have a chance through which his merits and demerits are equally judged.”

Rep. Lee also said, “(Once the re-evaluation takes place), I believe that people will give the green light to his pardon,” adding, “We also have to think twice whether Kim relied more on political authorities than other business moguls, such as the chairmen of Hyundai, Samsung, and LG, in running his business.”

Responding to this, Rep. Chang Young-dal of the ruling Uri Party and executive member of National Assembly committee, condemned this sentiment, saying, “This is not the time to sing a love song for Kim Woo-joong,” at a statement on his home page.

Rep. Chang pointed out, “Due to Kim’s poor handling of business operations, the nation had to suffer tens of trillions of won of debt. Kim ran away, leaving the burden to others for a long time. Now, he is trying to return to Korea,” adding, “It is important to confirm the speculation that Kim spent the most money to lobby politicians among business leaders.”

Joong-HyunPark Young-ChanYoon sanjuck@donga.com yyc11@donga.com