Go to contents

Is Roh Distancing Himself From Samsung?

Posted December. 12, 2005 08:20,   


President Roh Moo-hyun, on a state visit to Malaysia, was reticent when he toured Samsung’s Seremban Complex in Seremban, Malaysia in the morning of December 10 (local time). His silence drew attention.

President Roh kept silent when he was briefed on the current status of operations by one of Samsung’s executives. He also said nothing special when he was showed around offices on the first floor and the production lines for electron guns that go into cathode ray tubes for TVs on the second floor. The pleasantries he pays to Korean businessmen in foreign countries while on tour abroad were not forthcoming, either.

After wrapping up his tour, he saw a message which read: “I hope Samsung becomes model of successful economic cooperation between Korea and Malaysia” engraved on a copperplate visitors’ book which was prepared in advance for his signing, and Roh just signed the book with a pen, saying, “All I have to do is just to write down my name because everything that I want to say is already in this message. My hand is shaky.” He did not make any direct remarks regarding Samsung.

The Seremban Complex is Samsung’s local centerpiece. It accommodates the operations of four Samsung affiliates, including Samsung SDI, which produces cathode ray tubes for TVs, 35 Korean contractors, and 360 local companies.

President Roh’s attitude was quite different when he visited the Hyundai Motors’ plant in Turkey last April. At that time, President Roh said, “Koreans call Hyundai’s growth in Korea “the legend of Hyundai.” He even said, “I wish Hyundai Motors great success in its cooperative plans with Turkey, and that it expands to all of Europe.”

President Roh’s tour of the Seremban Complex was scheduled to last for 45 minutes, but it ended in just 20 minutes. Some speculate that President Roh’s “reticence” is related to the strained relationship between the ruling party and Samsung. They say that Roh remained reticent, keeping it in mind that even “pleasantry” praise for Samsung might provoke unnecessary controversy.

The relationship between the ruling party and Samsung has remained sour since the wiretapping X file case in which Samsung was involved came to light, and Samsung Life was charged with too large of a stake in Samsung affiliates under “the law on the improvement of financial industry structures.”

An official of Cheong Wa Dae warned against a political interpretation of Roh’s tour of Samsung’s complex, saying, “It was originally intended to be just a tour of the plants.”

Yeon-Wook Jung jyw11@donga.com