SOUTH KOREA: Parts makers beg for Hyundai chairman's return
Korea's automobile parts manufacturers have appealed to the prosecution for the early release of detained Hyundai Motor chairman Chung Mong-koo, saying the auto industry is facing a crisis due to his absence.
Representatives from the nation's two major auto parts associations said their 1,400 member companies are suffering because of Hyundai's troubled business, the Korea Herald reported.
"The concerns, such as tarnished brand image, sluggish exports and delays in overseas plans, are becoming a reality," they reportedly said in a statement.
Hyundai and its affiliate, Kia Motors, purchase about 75% of the total auto parts manufactured by the suppliers. But the carmakers' performance has faltered since Chung was arrested on April 27 on charges of embezzling about 130 billion won to create a slush fund.
The joint appeal came as the prosecution moves to indict chairman Chung and other executives involved in the slush fund scandal, possibly next week.
Last month, business circles expressed the hope that the prosecution would show "leniency" to the Hyundai chairman to prevent the company's overseas business plans from being damaged, the paper noted.
But prosecutors and the court dismissed the concerns, stressing legal principles over economic interests.
As expected, the absence of Chung is having a negative impact on the company's business operations, particularly its ambitious global plans aimed at expanding investments in its overseas car plants and research centres.
Concerns among foreign dealers and partners in the United States and China are also mounting about a possible fall in sales due to Hyundai's tarnished brand image, the Korea Herald said.
At home, key company meetings have been cancelled or delayed, leaving major issues and policies unresolved.
The problems now facing the Hyundai group are largely the result of its heavy reliance on chairman Chung, who has kept a tight rein on the company since his inauguration in 1998, the paper added.
Hyundai officials reportedly believe the chairman's strong leadership and speedy decisions - such as launching a lengthy warranty in the US to ally quality concerns - turned the company into a global power. But some critics said the business tycoon, like his father, is dictatorial and runs the company like a king.
Unless prosecutors and the courts take the business group's appeal into consideration, Hyundai's leadership absence will likely be prolonged. Most company executives and employees still believe there are no other options than for chairman Chung's return, the Korea Herald said.