Absolute Power, Corporations and Businessmen
A topic of corporations and employees is the most important lesson for a business professor. The university course explores development and failure of corporations, corporate management principles and their applications, management strategies, and etc. Additionally it strives to understand entrepreneurial philosophy and vision, as a driving force of corporate organizations, and social and economical responsibilities for their actions. As such, entrepreneurs’ role as an active agent in the market connects the private industry to consumers and delivers obligations and accountability. Therefore, in order to evaluate a corporation’s societal status and worth, it is crucial to first assess an entrepreneur’s philosophy and actions.
Where does our businessmen place? Scandals and harassment of yesterday and today are indicative of our society’s corporations and businessmen that are stagnant at the level of Cro-Magnon. Accumulating secret funds via accounting fraud, tax evasion, illegal insider subcontracts resulting in disturbance of the labor market, unethical ignorance of workers dying of leukemia, and a former M&M CEO, a conglomerate, Mr. Choi’s beating of a truck driver, Hong Jun Yoo (age 53); Mr. Choi who was in conflict regarding succession paid money for beating Mr. Yoo in return. All cases show disastrous reality of corporations and businessmen of our time.
In addition, Mr. Choi’s family motto, “Protect the weak and be firm to the enemy,” sheds a light that an employee, Mr. Yoo, was “an enemy” who participated in union activities for Mr.Choi and later Mr. Yoo’s employment succession was refused. At the time of battery, Mr. Choi told Mr. Yoo he will pay 1,000,000 won per beating and hit him 5-6 times. When Mr. Yoo begged for his life, Mr. Choi said, “3,000,000 won per beating,” and continue to beat him. From this incident, we affirmed anti-labor and the absence of order of contract rooted in businessmen.
1,000,000 won per beating. Based on 40 hours of work per week, the legal minimum monthly wage in 2010 amounts to 858,990 won. There are approximately 2,500,000 laborers earning less than the price of beating 1,000,000 won by 140,000 won. Perhaps thinking he can buy a person’s pain, Mr. Choi, a former CEO, paid 20,000,000 won to compensate for battery injuries. For someone the compensation amount is only a piece of paper, it covers two years of salary for a minimum wage worker. How can money worth so differently depending on a person?
Corporations and businessmen became our society’s idol without control, but meaning differently than how they did in the past. National boarders or nationality no longer limit corporations and national policies and regulations does not hinder corporations choices and behaviors. For instance, South Korea’s transnational corporations gain about 80% of its profits from foreign countries. College lecture halls that used to discuss theories and philosophy became a hostage to corporations and the market. Truthfully “corporate social responsibility” reflects the fear of absolute power held by corporations.
Therefore, how meaningless is it to demand corporate ethics and social responsibility, that corporations have obligations beyond their original pursuit of profits and economic worth, in the face of anti-labor and contempt of law evidenced through temporary workers of Ulsan and Mr. Yoo being assaulted in a room?
Professor of Business Administration at Sook Myung Women’s University
* This article was contributed to Kyunghyang Newspaper on December 8 by Professor Sun Won Kwon of Sook Myung Women’s University, a member of the Committee for Fair Labor Society of People’s Solidarity for Participatory Democracy.
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