President Moon Jae-in has named Kim Sang-jo, a longtime shareholder activist with a nickname “chaebol sniper,” to be the new head of the anti-trust watchdog Fair Trade Commission, Cheong Wa Dae said on May 17.
His appointment signals President Moon’s strong drive on chaebol reform through a strengthened role of the FTC, which is likely to enhance monitoring on the four largest business groups -- Samsung, Hyundai Motor, SK and LG -- as Moon had previously vowed.
During the latest presidential election campaign, the 55-year-old played a key role in devising up Moon’s economic pledges on chaebol reform.
“Kim is considered the right person to quickly make an environment for a fair market economy, especially when the livelihood of ordinary people is in crisis,” Cho Hyun-ock, top presidential secretary for personnel affairs, said at a press briefing.
“His appointment reflects our view that it is impossible to overcome the economic crisis under the current unfair market environment.”
After being nominated, Kim told reporters that the Korean economy needed to restore the market order.
“We don’t hear about ‘Dynamic Korea’ anymore, meaning our economy has significantly lost its vitality. One of the reasons behind is our unfair market economy. If I am appointed, I will make every effort to establish a fair market order, ensuring all market participants to exert their full ability.”
To serve as FTC chairman, Kim needs an endorsement from the prime minister and must go through a parliamentary hearing. The post does not require an approval vote by the National Assembly. Lee Nak-yon, Moon’s pick for prime minister, still awaits his parliamentary confirmation hearing and the consequent vote.
Moon had vowed to drastically raise the FTC’s authority to have chaebol report their transactions with small- and medium-sized business and sub-contractors to better monitor whether such deals were made fairly. In doing so, Moon suggested reviving the FTC’s investigation bureau, which had been scrapped in 2005 due to the corporate sector’s call for deregulation.
During the election campaign, Kim often told the local media that the new government would allow lawsuits by stockholders in parent companies against the wrongdoings of management at their affiliates and introduce a cumulative voting system which would make it easier for minor shareholders to place candidates of their choice in the board room.
Prior to joining Moon’s camp in March, Kim served as director of Solidarity for Economic Reform, a civic group focusing on improving the corporate governance system through minority shareholder campaigning, since 2006. He has also been serving as economics professor at Hansung University since 1994.
Born in 1962 in Gumi, North Gyeongsang Province, Kim entered Seoul National University in 1981 with major in economics and received a master’s degree and a Ph.D. in economics at the same school.
In the wake of the 1997-1998 Asian financial crisis, he drove up the public consensus for chaebol reform serving as a senior official at the People’s Solidarity for Participatory Democracy from 1999 to 2001.
He was also a member of the tripartite committee of labor, management, and government in 1997-1998.
By Kim Yoon-mi/The Korea Herald (email@example.com