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Will GS chairman continue to lead FKI?

Feb. 25, 2019 - 16:46 By Cho Chung-un
The Federation of Korean Industries, once the nation’s largest business lobby group, is reportedly having a hard time finding its next chairman.

The organization, representing the business community, is set to hold a general assembly Wednesday to pick its new leader, but according to industry sources there is no candidate for the post.

The FKI has been led by GS Group Chairman Huh Chang-soo for the past eight years. An FKI chairman is typically appointed for a two-year term, but he or she can choose to extend it because there is no limitation on the period in office, according to the FKI’s secretariat.

GS Group Chairman Huh Chang-soo

Huh has often made it public that he will not continue to chair the FKI for another two years. But with no candidates stepping up, it remains to be seen whether the GS Group chairman will agree to continue in the post.

Established in 1961 by Samsung founder Lee Byung-chull, the FKI was South Korea‘s largest and most influential business group, serving as a platform to facilitate official communication with the government and political circles.

However the reputation of the FKI has declined since late 2016 because of its role in a high-profile scandal that ended up with the ousting of former President Park Geun-hye. The organization had arranged illicit donations for two sports foundations controlled by Park’s longtime friend Choi Soon-sil. It later lost key members including the nation’s four-largest conglomerates -- Samsung, Hyundai Motor, SK and LG -- which led to the lost of membership fees. 

Hanwha Group Chairman Kim Seung-youn

Hanwha Chairman Kim Seung-youn has been mentioned as a possible candidate to lead the FKI, as his suspended sentence that kept him from management positions for the last five years ended last week.

Despite rising speculation, Hanwha has remained tight-lipped on Kim’s next move. Some observers have suggested that it may be difficult for him to take a leadership role that represents the interests of business, as Hanwha’s defense and energy businesses are closely tied to government policy.

Lotte Chairman Shin Dong-bin and Hanjin Group Chairman Cho Yang-ho have also been mentioned for the post but they are facing trial on charges of embezzlement and breach of trust, making it almost impossible for them to take the public role.

By Cho Chung-un (