For A Better Business Climate

FKI Chairman Cho S.R. focuses on spurring biz investment

Chairman Cho Suk-rae of the Federation of Korean Industries (FKI) has a lot to look back at on the occasion of his one-year anniversary as head of the powerful business organization.
Upon claiming the top job at the FKI in March of last year, he steered the organization representing the nation's top business groups toward building a business climate conducive for vibrant business activities and demanded the government relax all regulations hindering businesses, especially those restricting investment.
The new chairman's job also involved listening to the demands of its member companies, large or small, to erase the public impression that the FKI stood for big business only.
He made it clear at a ceremony for the inauguration of Standing Vice Chairman Chung Byung-chol on March 5. During the ceremony, he said many outside the FKI think that only the four largest conglomerates and the larger firms in the country benefit from the organization as members, not small firms. "That is not true, we represent all 200 members of the organization and we should make the country understand that,"the FKI chairman argued.
Cho said together with the new vice chairman, the FKI should work harder to contribute its share for national economic development and, in the process, they should know what their customers want.
Following the ceremony, he told reporters that he did not make his speech to point out something in particular, saying that it referred to something that he always talked about. He denied that the FKI wanted to mend fences with LG Group by appointing a former LG affiliate consultant to a top position at the FKI, the position left vacant by former vice chairman Lee Youn-ho who became the minister of the Knowledge and Economy Ministry.
LG Group's relationship with the FKI has been a little on the sour side since it was forced to give up its semiconductor chip business under a government plan to merge it with Hyundai Group's semiconductor business, giving birth to Hynix Semiconductor.
The business community is wondering whether the FKI talked with LG Group to bring Chung to the FKI or whether the group first recommended Chung.
Chairman Cho said the FKI contacted the business group first and got its consent, along with a congratulatory statement from the head of the group, Koo Bon-moo, who wished Chung well in his new job.
But confusion still lingers, because some refute the chairman's claim that the FKI contacted the LG Group before the appointment. The LG group's Koo is still unhappy with the FKI for the role it played when he was forced to give up the chip business following the foreign exchange crisis of 1998. He feels the FKI could have done more to help him keep the chip business, which the government virtually took away from his group under the so-called 'Big Deal,'designed to rearrange a number of key industries in order to keep them afloat in the wake of the foreign exchange crisis. The LG chairman has stayed away from the FKI since then, although Minister Lee Youn-ho was the standing vice chairman of the business organization then. "The wound he got then was too traumatic,"LG sources said.
FKI sources said the organization has always been waiting for the LG leader to move past the experience and get back on good terms with them and that they will continue to wait.
Chairman Cho is always focused on issues related to creating a good business climate. "If you throw a stone into the pond where fish play in peace, they will disappear quickly. Money is the same; it doesn't come if conditions are not good,"he said during a meeting of the Broadcasting Reporters Club in April as a way of stressing the need for the creation of a business environment of a global standard. He has been saying that investment will return when the country is stable in terms of politics and social upheaval, sure that nothing would get in the way of business activities.
Looking back, Cho has done a lot during his initial year as head of the FKI. The organization has presented over 5,000 recommendations for regulatory revisions on the registration of new start-ups and over 1,600 recommendations for regulatory reform, doing the job of a think tank.
Chairman Cho also dealt with such matters as the establishment of a committee for strengthening national competitiveness jointly with the private and government sectors, defending against the introduction of measures to curb market-dominating firms and attempts to regulate circulatory investments by conglomerates in their affiliates.
The FKI has also done its best under the leadership of the chairman in creating an environment for the early ratification of the Korea-U.S. Free Trade Agreement at the National Assembly. The business organization has also worked on such matters as strengthening the education on a market economy and corporate social responsibility.
Presently, the industry is faced with an unstable financial market, sluggish world economy, high oil prices and run-away materials prices on top of a steep depreciation of the Korean currency, all of them caused by external factors that can be solved with domestic policies and regulations.
Chairman Cho and the FKI will focus on recommending appropriate policies to the government. Their moves will be in line with the government's priority to spur economic growth and stabilize the livelihood of the people. nw

Chairman Cho S.R. of the Federation of Korean Industries(FKI) at a meeting.

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