The Korea Herald


6 in 10 view chaebol favorably: FKI survey

Over 90 percent of survey respondents acknowledge large corporations' significant role in exports

By Song Seung-hyun

Published : Sept. 12, 2023 - 16:35

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Federation of Korean Industries' headquarters in Yeouido, Seoul (Yonhap) Federation of Korean Industries' headquarters in Yeouido, Seoul (Yonhap)

Nearly 60 percent of Koreans expressed a favorable view of the country's chaebol -- large industrial conglomerates run and controlled by families -- indicating an improvement in negative sentiments toward these conglomerates over the past decade, according to a survey conducted by the Federation of Korean Industries.

The survey, commissioned by the business organization, which includes over 600 members among Korean companies and industries, was conducted on a total of 1,005 individuals aged 18 and above nationwide Aug. 9-16.

The survey did not specifically name the chaebol companies, but the FKI mentioned that it was conducted with the assumption that the general public would consider large corporations and chaebol as synonymous concepts.

The results revealed that 58.3 percent of respondents held a positive opinion of large corporations. Among these respondents, 14.5 percent responded they have a "very favorable" opinion, while 43.8 percent said they have a "somewhat favorable" view.

When respondents were asked about changes in their views toward large corporations compared to a decade ago, 41.0 percent answered their views have "improved," 49.4 percent said "no change," and 9.6 percent said their views have "worsened."

"While factors like proactive investments, innovation and the competitive edge of Korean firms in the global market may have played a role (in improving negative sentiment), the increase in active communication by business leaders also seems to have had an impact,” said Lee Sang-yoon, head of corporate social responsibility at the FKI, who was responsible for analyzing the survey results.

Only 8.6 percent of the total respondents expressed an "unfavorable" view of large corporations.

This implies that there were nearly 7 times more individuals with a favorable view of large corporations than those with an unfavorable view.

The remaining 33.1 percent of respondents said they have "neutral" feelings toward large corporations.

According to the FKI, the positive view toward large corporations can primarily be attributed to the perception that these companies make significant contributions to Korea’s overall economy.

Specifically, the survey highlighted that the area where large corporations were perceived to make the most substantial contribution was "exports," at 90.7 percent.

Beyond their impact on exports, respondents also acknowledged that large corporations contribute to various other facets of the economy, including "economic growth" (88.0 percent), "investment" (74.7 percent), "job creation" (71.0 percent), "innovation" (71.0 percent) and "increasing the national income" (62.9 percent).

Nonetheless, when it comes to social responsibility, less than half (49.7 percent) believe that large corporations are making a contribution. In terms of promoting ethical and lawful business practices, only 36.1 percent thought that large firms actively engage in such practices.

These percentages are notably lower compared to large corporations' contributions in economic areas such as exports, investment and employment.

Despite the fact that large corporations have been introducing environmental, social and governance management practices, with over 66 percent of companies listed on the stock market with a market capitalization of over 2 trillion won ($1.5 billion) issuing sustainable management reports, the public's perception suggests that these efforts are still deemed insufficient, as stated by the FKI.

Additionally, in the future, the role that the public believes large corporations should prioritize the most is "job creation," with 24.2 percent of respondents emphasizing this aspect.

"Given the ongoing unemployment issues in our society and the increasing expectations of job seekers, the national demand for job creation will continue to rise,” an FKI official said.

Other areas large corporations should strengthen include "expanding exports and investment" (16.0 percent), "enhancing social responsibility" (16.0 percent), "improving worker wages and benefits" (15.7 percent) and "strengthening compliance and ethical management" (15.1 percent), the survey showed.

“With people’s continuous significant interest and support, along with legal and institutional support, large corporations can be a driving force in making more proactive investments, creating jobs and practicing ESG management,” FKI official Lee added.