Friday, June 30, 2006

Headless Beasts

A little noticed thing happened the past couple days, Chung Mong-koo, the Chairman of Hyundai Motor, was released on bail for the typical "health" reasons the chaebol exec's get sprung for. In reading over the news of the release, something has been troubling me. Yesterday perhaps the Korean Herald wrote it best:

[Chung's] arrest caused a vast leadership vacuum at the country's leading carmaker. Plans to build overseas car plants were put indefinitely on hold, while at home, sales waned. Just recently, unionists at the company's Ulsan plant initiated a partial strike citing the collapsed salary negotiations.

How can one man play such a role in a large global company? Even better question, how can a "transparent independent board of directors" (which large Korean companies up-and-down-the-line swear they have) allow for such a concentration of power in one man?

All that aside, such worries defiantly do not reflect well on Hyundai Motor. What the hell were the rest of executives doing? Playing grab-ass? I find it disturbing that the top management of Hyundai is so inept that they could not could not even sell cars as well in their (virtually competition free) home market, according to the Korea Herald.

On the other hand, one could take a somewhat cynical position that such news was a function of Chung/Hyundai trying to get him sprung from jail. If so, what does that say about his respect for the company and its employees where he is willing to spread rumors with such malicious and insulting implications.

No wonder DalimerChrysler sold its stake in the company.

The last bit reminds me something rather sad, for both the company and the man. A couple years ago Samsung Electronics thought it a good marketing investment to buy a series of full page article looking ads in the Korea Herald lauding their chairman Lee Kun-hee. The series went on seemingly forever and were entitled something like "Lee Kun-hee's drive for reform" or some such tripe. The incessant articles went on-and-on in a style the North Korean media would admire about what Lee was doing for Samsung. One of these ads included two or three foreign business consultants who waxed so beautifully about Mr. Lee I swear they wanted to marry the guy, or at least hoped for a dinner invitation. 

Then I thought about all this. It would not be surprising for these business consultants to have contracts with Samsung. So to sum up this, Lee is a guy who possibly pays people to say nice things about him and then pays a newspaper to trumpet it as real news. What a sad guy, how sad for Samsung.

Final thought, how could have the lack of Chung at is desk stop strikes at Hyundai factories? Is it just me or do they always strike this time of year?


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