By Kim Seung-yeon
SEOUL, Aug. 22 (Yonhap) — The Federation of Korean Industries (FKI) is set to reveal a series of steps Tuesday as part of a significant revamp attempt to restore its standing as a powerful business lobby after years of setback due to a political scandal.
The plans will include the formal appointment of its new leader, Poongsan Group Chairman Ryu Jin, a well-known businessman with extensive personal and professional ties to the U.S. business world.
The FKI was scheduled to hold an extraordinary general meeting to approve the revitalization plans.
It will also change its Korean name to “Hangyeonghyeop” from “Jeongyeongryeon” as part of the reform, although its English name will remain unchanged.
At the core of the FKI’s revamp plans is its decision to merge with the Korea Economic Research Institute (KERI), an FKI-affiliated think tank, to create the legal basis for the top four South Korean conglomerates to return to membership following their withdrawal in early 2017.
Samsung, SK, LG and Hyundai dropped out of the FKI in the wake of a major 2016 influence-peddling scandal that led to the ouster of then President Park Geun-hye.
The FKI was examined over its alleged intermediary role in pressuring major business enterprises, including Samsung, to make contributions to two foundations associated with a close confidante of Park at the center of the corruption scandal.
This photo taken Aug. 20, 2023, shows the headquarters of the Federation of Korean Industries in Seoul's western Yeouido district. (Yonhap)
The FKI, the largest and most influential business lobby in South Korea, has seen its presence diminish since the scandal and is striving to revive its reputation.
The four conglomerates withdrew their membership from the FKI after the scandal broke, but they remain KERI members.
The merger of KERI will legally bring back Samsung and other previous members to the FKI. But the question remains whether the top business groups will actually be willing to participate in FKI-led initiatives and events, as skepticism lingers over the prospect amid negative public perceptions of business lobby groups.
Last week, the independent compliance oversight committee of Samsung recommended Samsung affiliates rejoin the FKI on condition that they will “immediately withdraw if there is any act of politics-business collusion.”
Fifteen Samsung affiliates, led by Samsung Electronics Co., pulled out of the FKI in early 2017, acting on a pledge by Executive Chairman Lee Jae-yong, to clean up the business after the scandal.
Lee was sentenced to 2 1/2 years in prison after being convicted of bribery in connection with the scandal. Lee was released on parole in August 2021 and reinstated after receiving a presidential pardon a year later.
Samsung Electronics and four other Samsung affiliates, including Samsung Life Insurance Co. and Samsung SDI Co. remain KERI members.
On Monday, Samsung Securities Co., a KERI member, said it will not rejoin the FKI, taking into account the decision by its board and the compliance committee’s recommendation.
Officials at SK, LG and Hyundai said they are discussing the matter internally and have not reached a decision yet.
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