New KFTC chairman nominated today

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17 May 2017. By Danbee Lee.

Newly elected South Korean President Moon Jae-in's administration today nominated an academic specializing in conglomerate reform as the incoming chairman of the Korea Fair Trade Commission.

Currently a professor at Hansung University, Kim Sang-jo was a key figure in President Moon's campaign, brainstorming a blueprint for the new government's economic policies. Kim played a particularly important role in mapping out policies related to chaebols — South Korea's family-owned conglomerates — during Moon's campaign.

Based on Kim's expertise in chaebol reform, his nomination does not come as a surprise. Throughout his campaign, Moon vowed to create a fair and efficient economy, which would mean beefing up the powers of the KFTC as part of efforts to reform South Korea's chaebols.

In addition to aiding Moon's campaign, Kim has held various positions that have involved reforming chaebol-related policies at civic groups such as People's Solidarity for Participatory Democracy, Solidarity for Economic Reform and others. However, there are concerns in some quarters that Kim may lack expertise in the non-chaebol related issues that the KFTC is tasked with overseeing, such as cartel conduct and consumer policies.

Kim will have to attend a parliamentary confirmation hearing before officially taking up the KFTC chairmanship. The date for that hearing has yet to be decided.

The appointment of a new chairman will give the KFTC a boost under Moon's administration. The regulator is expected to focus on tackling unfair conduct among the major conglomerates and to level the playing field for small and medium-sized enterprises. It is understood that conglomerates such as Samsung, Hyundai, SK, LG, CJ and Shinsegae will come under closer scrutiny by the KFTC under the new administration, because they have been repeat trade practice offenders in the past.

Among the policies Moon is expected to adopt is re-establishing an investigative division within the KFTC focused exclusively on chaebols, abolishing the KFTC's exclusive right to refer cases to prosecutors, and resolving outstanding cross-shareholding issues at conglomerates, among other things, as MLex reported earlier. There will also be tougher sanctions imposed on companies that hinder the KFTC's investigative processes.

	Eliot Gao