A recent poll showed that Korea's so-called MZ Generation - referring collectively to the Millennials (born in the early 1980s to early 1990s) and Generation Z (born in the mid-1990s to early 2000s) - has more positive feelings about the nation's conglomerates by three times than hostility against them. The youngsters between their 20s and 30s also responded that they trust companies and businessmen better than the government, public servants, lawmakers or politicians. The poll was surveyed over some 500 people in their 20s and 30s by The Dong-A Ilbo along with the research team led by Professor Lee Kyeong-mook from Seoul National University. The result demonstrates that the nation's future leaders feel rather friendly about business people, contrary to the concerns many had up until now as politicians have encouraged anti-business sentiment among the public, causing a hurdle for various corporate activities.
The respondents considered Korea's major companies, which have grown into the world's leading players and thus elevating the national competitiveness, represent the country just as Korea's ace footballer Son Heung-min who plays in the English Premier League and K-pop legendary idol band BTS have enhanced national image. Those surveyed further pointed out that Korea's big businesses have relatively faster decision-making procedures and higher innovative power and offer products and services with higher quality, compared to their global competitors.
Korea's conglomerates have been undervalued despite their significant contribution to the nation's economic growth. Numerous polls in the past suggested that anti-business sentiment among the public was reaching a dangerous level. Such antagonism resulted from corrupt links between politicians and businessmen and undue privileges those entrepreneurs enjoyed accordingly during Korea's rapid industrialization. Expedient succession, their affiliates taking up all profitable work excluding small and medium-sized companies along the way, and a series of news about bullying owners abusing power did not help, either. Politicians who took advantage of such animosity and politicized economic issues should also take the blame.
The nation's MZ Generation disagreed with "bashing" the big companies, which has been a common practice. They noted that those large companies should grow to create decent jobs and thus offer robust job security for many youngsters. That way, they argued, the country would have the power to tackle the low-growth trend that's becoming increasingly persistent. 20-to-30-somethings in Korea seemed friendlier to chaebols (referring to specific types of conglomerates in Korea) than those from other age groups. Such amicability is mainly attributable to increased interactions between new chaebol owners who recently took over the business and their young employees and the general public.
Big companies in Korea should leverage this opportune turnaround among the MZ Generation to address distrusting sentiment against conglomerates deeply entrenched in our society at large. If large enterprises repeat their unfair and expedient practices as in the past, antagonism toward big businesses will take firmer root, possibly resulting in heavier regulations that can threaten their business dynamism. More than anything, they should live up to the expectations of young people and look more eagerly for future growth engines through bold investments and new business development. Big companies should also fulfill their social responsibilities by creating high-quality jobs and offering more and better prosperity to customers, stakeholders, and local communities. The government should also work to boost business morale and improve the business environment by vigorously driving deregulation and labor market reform.