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Here we go again…

May 03,2018
이미지뷰
PARK TAE-HEE
*The author is an industry news reporter of the JoongAng Ilbo.

On April 4, the attention of all Koreans was on the trial of impeached former President Park Geun-hye.

Judge Kim Se-yoon read the ruling on the 77.4 billion won ($72 million) Park was accused of illicitly raising through the Mir and K-Sports foundations.

“The president has the power to influence the existence and overall activities of companies. Not many companies can turn down the president’s demand,” he said. “Even if there was no explicit threat, she used her position to demand contributions and evoked a sense of anxiety that companies would suffer disadvantages if they did not contribute, so along with abuse of power, she is guilty of extortion.”
Park’s claim that companies supported the cause of culture and sports promotion and voluntarily contributed money was not accepted.
But not long after the landmark ruling, the government and companies are once again walking the thin line between “coercion” and “voluntary contribution.” The Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy has asked for donations of 270 billion won from large corporations for industrial innovation, assisting secondary and tertiary partners. The Korea Chamber of Commerce set up a task force at the request of the ministry. Of course, the ministry claims that contributions are voluntary and there is no coercion.

What if the industrial innovation movement is substituted with the Mir and K-Sports Foundations to support small and mid-sized companies with culture and sports promotions and the Korea Chamber of Commerce with the Federation of Korean Industries? Not much has changed in the story of large corporations being pressured to make supposedly voluntary contributions.

The state does not have the right to demand anything from companies other than taxes. Moreover, the administration, whose primary task is to eradicate longstanding evils, should discourage companies from making donations. All giving accompanies the temptation of taking because seeds of collusion are planted between politics and business.

In his inauguration speech, President Moon Jae-in said that he would part with wrong practices of the past and that, in his administration, collusion in politics and businesses would end.

If the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy is supporting the president’s vision, it should not make an implicit request of funding from large corporations for the general issue of supporting small and medium-sized companies.

The administration that advocates ending evil practices should not repeat the error of writing another history of longstanding evils.

JoongAng Ilbo, May 2, Page 29