What They Said is a regular series on the quotes Korea is talking about.
Chung Yong-jin’s #myeolgong (#멸공)
Last week in this series, I covered the issue of Shinsegae Group’s vice president Chung Yong-jin and his #myeolgong posts. Here’s a follow-up of what happened afterward. On January 12, one of E-mart’s three labor unions, which has the right to sign collective agreements with the company and is affiliated with the Federation of Korean Trade Unions, released a statement on behalf of all three labor unions, regarding Chung’s anti-communist posts.
Despite the increase in online shopping and various regulations, E-mart, the flagship company of the Shinsegae Group, is doing better than others through the efforts of its employees. In this difficult environment, we express deep concern over the words and actions of Vice Chairman Chung Yong-jin, who is disturbing our customers and the public and damaging the company’s image.
He is free to say what he wants, but he has to consider the impact his words will have on the tens of thousands of Shinsegae and E-mart employees and their families.
If he really wants to be a free person and a haeg-in-ssa, he can withdraw completely from management, but if he calls himself an entrepreneur, he needs to now clarify the boundaries. In addition, he needs to retrace his steps as a businessman.
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He goes around saying not to be afraid of failure, but the failure should not be to the extent in which the employees feel insecure, and he should not be the only one allowed to fail.
With the money earned at E-mart, which has been the group’s cash cow for 27 years, he has repeatedly missed opportunities and moments despite numerous chances. He needs to know why so many employees now think that neither the company nor the employees seem to have a future.
For years, in wage negotiations, the company has repeated that it is in difficult times, has it not? We hope that Vice Chairman Chung Yong-jin seriously considers the cause of these difficult times. There should be no more sacrifices from employees.
Our union and employees are concerned that the words “owner risk” have surfaced, although many seem to regard the issue as noise marketing.
We hope that Vice Chairman Chung Yong-jin recognizes this situation, in which the unions and the employees are concerned about the company, and shows his sincerity in the upcoming wage negotiation. Promoting national interests through business is something that the labor unions and employees do together.
— E-mart Labor Union, January 12, 2022.
With critical voices rising from within the company, Chung responded to the statement via his Instagram account on January 13.
If any of my colleagues or customers turn away [from our group] because of me, nothing can be justified! If anyone has been hurt by my freedom, it is entirely my fault.
— Chung Yong-jin, Vice-Chairman of Shinsegae Group, January 13, 2022.
E-mart’s labor union welcomed his message and thanked him for his apology. And so it seems that the #myeolgong controversy has come to an end, for the time being at least.
Gwangju Apartment Building Collapse
One sad piece of news in this first month of the new year was the collapse of an apartment building in Gwangju. On January 11, one of the buildings being constructed by Hyundai Development Company (HDC) as part of an apartment complex suddenly collapsed. Six workers went missing during the incident, and only one has so far been found. He had passed away. According to YTN, nearly 400 complaints about the construction of the apartments had been received by the district office prior to the accident. Yet merchants who own stores near the construction site are claiming that the district office brushed their complaints aside, possibly leading to this tragedy.
On January 12, HDC’s CEO Yu Byounggyu made a public apology and vowed to make efforts for recovery and accident management. Immediately afterward, HDC hired Kim & Chang, the largest law firm in South Korea, arousing public outrage that the company was more concerned about minimizing its losses rather than properly looking into the accident, compensating the victims and their families, and discussing measures to prevent another similar incident.
Experts have said that the accident appears to have been a man-made disaster that resulted from a combination of issues.
On January 17, HDC Chairman Chung Mong-gyu also made a public apology and announced his decision to resign.
I bow my head and apologize deeply to the victims of the Gwangju accident, their families and the public.
HDC Hyundai Development Company began with the development of Hyundai Apartments in Apgujeong-dong in 1976 and has grown with the trust and love of the people as our IPark brand.
However, the two recent accidents in Gwangju have caused great disappointment to the citizens of Gwangju and the people of South Korea. In June of last year, innocent citizens were killed and injured during a demolition process, and an accident occurred again during construction on January 11. For the loss of not only the safety of the apartment buildings but also people’s trust in our company, our sorrow and regret are immense.
It is an obvious statement, but I believe that the existence of a company is meaningless without the trust of its customers and the public. We will establish and implement all measures we can to restore that trust once again. Hyundai Development Company is currently carrying out rescue operations while safely managing the accident site in cooperation with the city of Gwangju and other relevant government agencies, and we will continue to put all our efforts into quickly rescuing the missing people.
In addition, we will do our best not only to compensate the victims’ families for damage caused by this accident, but also to ensure that there is no harm done to the prospective tenants and stakeholders.
We have hurt and burdened the citizens of Gwangju with the two recent accidents. We will consult with the city of Gwangju to find the best plan for citizen safety and disaster management. Taking this accident as an opportunity, Hyundai Development Company will turn over a new leaf and be reborn as a completely new company. We will take all necessary measures to ensure that the residents of the apartments in Hwajeong-gu, Gwangju, where the accident occurred, do not have any safety concerns. We will eliminate concerns and distrust by bringing in external agencies to conduct safety examinations on our construction sites across the country and thoroughly check the safety and quality of our services.
We will greatly strengthen our safety and quality assurance so that our customers can live in peace for the rest of their lives. Currently, the legal warranty period for structural safety defects such as frames is ten years, but we will extend the warranty period of all buildings built by Hyundai Development Company, including the new apartment buildings, to 30 years so that the residents can live in comfort and peace. We will ensure that no property damage will be suffered by the residents due to safety issues. Hyundai Development Company will be reborn as a national company that is loved by the people and contributes to economic development by putting customer safety and social values first.
Since leaving Hyundai Motor Company and taking office as the chairman of Hyundai Industrial Development in 1999, I have worked hard for the company’s development for 23 years, trying to keep the trust of the customers and the public. It is heartbreaking to see all those efforts going to waste in an instant due to this accident. With a strong sense of responsibility for the two incidents, I will step down from the position of chairman of Hyundai Industrial Development from this moment. We pledge our every effort and support at the group level so that the accident can be resolved and people’s trust can be restored.
Once again, I sincerely apologize to the victims of the Gwangju accident, their families, and the public.
— Chung Mong-gyu, Chairman of the HDC Group, January 17, 2022.
The situation for HDC is difficult, as people are objecting to the company’s continued involvement in the apartment construction business and they are highly likely to be excluded from future public projects. But it is the victims and their families who have been most deeply wounded by the accidents. The search for the five missing people is still ongoing, as people hope for a miracle.
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