[THE INVESTOR] Fair Trade Commission Chairman Kim Sang-jo denied his rumored meeting with Samsung Group Vice Chairman Lee Jae-yong amid his heightened calls for corporate reforms at the nation’s largest conglomerate, The Bell reported on Aug. 6.
“I never met Vice Chairman Lee Jae-yong in person,” Kim said in a telephone interview on Aug. 3, adding “These days something like that cannot remain a secret.”
Following the Samsung heir’s first meeting with President Moon Jae-in in India last month, rumors spread that Lee and the FTC chief also met recently and discussed Samsung’s governance reform plans that are likely to be announced later this year.
Industry watchers had presumed Kim, nicknamed “chaebol sniper,” could have made some compromises on the reform plans as the government is eager for cooperation with Samsung on job creation.
Kim’s assertive comments on several occasions also fueled the rumors. After months of upping pressure on Samsung to speed up reforms, he said last month in an interview that Samsung would resolve its cross-shareholding structure within the year.
Kim, however, downplayed his recent comments, saying it’s just his expectations.
“I expressed my expectations about Samsung’s reform plans. Samsung has already told about the issue both overtly and implicitly,” he told The Bell.
The report said the FTC chief may feel pressure as he was seen to be arm-twisting Samsung and other chaebol while the government is seeking help from them for economic recovery.
It was widely rumored Samsung could announce a new investment plan worth 100 trillion won (US$90 billion) during the heir’s meeting with Finance Minister Kim Dong-yeon on Aug. 6 but the plans were reportedly ditched at the last minute considering a possible public backlash.
“Under FTC’s lobbyist regulations, any meeting with a company should be recorded for parliamentary audit. If there’s any request from Samsung or other companies, I am willing to meet them any time,” he added.
By Lee Ji-yoon (email@example.com)