Posted March. 17, 2017 07:13,
Updated March. 17, 2017 07:18
The Ministry of Knowledge Economy was established upon the launch of the Lee Myung-bak administration in 2008 by combining the former Ministry of Commerce Industry and Energy and some of the roles of the Ministry of Information & Communication and the Ministry of Science and Technology. Then President Lee Myung-bak, who championed the “business-friendly” policy, appointed Lee Yoon-ho, then vice chairman of the Federation of Korean Industry (FKI), a lobby group for big businesses, as the first minister of Knowledge Economy. Although Lee was a former bureaucrat who ranked first in a state-administered examination for hiring public officials, his appointment also elevated the FKI’s status. The local business community considered the ministry a deputy prime minister-level organization.
The FKI’s chairmanship, which is taken by heads of large business conglomerates called “chaebol,” does not intervene in the everyday operation of the lobby organization. Its vice chairman is usually in charge of dealing with the government and the public. The business body also serves as a bridge between the government and big businesses. After Lee Yoon-ho became a government minister, the FKI had high hopes that it would become easy to find his successor. However, most eligible executives at large corporations turned down the job offer. Many eyebrows were raised in 2013 when Lee Seung-cheol became the first FKI insider in 27 years to be promoted to the top post at the organization.
Lee Seung-cheol, who retired last month, reportedly demanded an advisor position at the FKI and bonuses. He pushed the FKI into a crisis of near dismantlement by lying to the National Assembly that big businesses voluntarily donated a total of 77.4 billion won (68.5 million U.S. dollars) to set up the Mir and K-Sports foundations. A corruption and influence-peddling scandal involving the two foundations led to former President Park Geun-hye’s impeachment. Rumors had it that he actively defended Park because he hoped to follow Lee Yoon-ho’s footsteps. Although he failed to become a minister, he has completed his term at the FKI and grabbed 2 billion won (1.8 million dollars) in severance pay. Still not satisfied with it, he demanded the position of an advisor at the organization and a bonus of up to 50 percent of his severance pay. How cheeky he is!
At a parliamentary hearing on Park’s scandal in December last year, one lawmaker asked if there was anyone among the chaebol chiefs present who had been to a candlelight rally calling for Park’s ouster. Only Lee raised his hand, only to lower it after the lawmaker pointed out that he was not a member of chaebol. The scene indicated Lee’s desire to move up the social ladder. On Thursday, the FKI sent a text message to reporters, saying that it would neither offer the advisor position nor pay him special bonuses or attorney’s fees. The FKI appears to be fed up with him.