Hint at resignation from shared growth body may be attempt to distance self from ruling bloc
Former Prime Minister Chung Un-chan, sought by the ruling party as a potential candidate for next month’s by-elections, hinted that he would resign from heading an economic policy panel over criticism of his plan for “profit sharing” between conglomerates and their subcontractors.
Regarding Knowledge Economy Minister Choi Joong-kyung’s repeated criticism of his proposal for profit-sharing, Chung said he was mulling quitting his current job as head of a nongovernmental commission for shared growth of large and small businesses, which is partly funded by the ministry.
The comment drew agitated responses from within the presidential office and the governing Grand National Party.
A presidential aide said he was caught off guard by Chung’s mention of resignation, which was reported Saturday, saying the controversy over profit-sharing was something that could be settled within the government.
“Chung used to coordinate disagreements within the administration as a prime minister,” the Cheong Wa Dae official said.
“It is quite surprising and undesirable that he chose to openly raise the issue, stirring controversy.”
Presidential spokesperson Kim Hee-jung said the government did not receive a report on the profit-sharing scheme yet, and that it will be discussed by the Commission on Shared Growth for Large and Small Companies.
Another presidential aide was quoted as saying by Yonhap news agency Monday that Chung should continue to fulfill his responsibility for the businesses’ mutual growth.
Stressing that mutual growth is the Lee administration’s keynote policy and essential task for sustainable development of the Korean economy, the Cheong Wa Dae official said the panel will sort out the differences over profit-sharing.
Chung said Monday that he was still mulling over resignation, but that his decision will be made “in a direction helpful to shared growth.”
Rep. Hong Joon-pyo, a member of the GNP’s supreme council, on Monday said Chung was “behaving like a spoilt child.”
“Chung is waging a war with a concept that he wrongfully set up called profit-sharing, not with Cheong Wa Dae or the government,” Hong said in a meeting with reporters at the National Assembly.
“I hope he behaves like an adult.”
Hong also criticized Chung for attacking the Federation of Korean Industries, a lobbying body for the nation’s largest conglomerates, with a “socialist idea” when Chung’s panel gets financial aid from the FKI.
“It would be like squeezing the FKI’s throat with the federation’s money. (The panel) shouldn’t take that money,” he said.
About the myriad of news reports on whether Chung might run in the by-election on a GNP ticket, Hong said the party will not beg him to join them nor “pamper him.”
Hong also called for an end to the ruling bloc’s internal feud over whom to nominate as a GNP contender for a constituency in Bundang.
“One side is pushing to invite Chung and the other is supporting someone else through his wife. This kind of internal feuding for power is just disgraceful,” Hong said.
“Those in the top leadership positions must exercise self-discipline and the entire ruling bloc must unite with the president and the party chairman as its center.”
It has been reported that Presidential Chief-of-Staff Yim Tae-hee was backing former GNP leader Kang Jae-sup as a
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GNP candidate for Bundang-B, while Minister of Special Affairs Lee Jae-oh, a former four-term legislator and kingmaker of President Lee, was seeking to coax Chung. Yim’s wife publicly asked for support of Kang during a speech at the opening of his office earlier this month, which Yim’s associates explained was due to her personal friendship with Kang’s wife.
GNP chairman Ahn Sang-soo said he was “perplexed” by the dispute over profit-sharing between Chung and Knowledge Economy Minister Choi, and said Choi should spare his words.
Choi has publicly refuted the idea of profit-sharing, saying it would be unrealistic to apply the system between companies as it was originally about distributing a company’s proceeds between the employer and the employees.
Chung has often publicly complained about the lack of government ministries’ interest or support of the panel for shared growth.
“It is frustrating that a related minister is slamming (the idea of profit-sharing). Are they saying that I shouldn’t do my job?” Chung was quoted as saying by Yonhap.
The former economics professor said the president had a strong will for mutual growth, but government ministries were not providing the panel with much help.
The nongovernmental commission, affiliated with the Ministry of Knowledge Economy, has difficulties as it lacks budget and manpower, Chung said. The panel is funded by the ministry, Small and Medium Business Administration and the FKI.
By Kim So-hyun (firstname.lastname@example.org