Salaries of highest-paid Korean tycoons may soon be revealed

Salaries of highest-paid Korean tycoons may soon be revealed

Will people finally find out how much Samsung Electronics vice chairman Lee Jae-yong makes in a year?

All eyes are now on a revision bill that will make public the payrolls of highest-paid business magnates. It is waiting for final approval from the National Assembly.

While many lawmakers and civic activists call for transparency in management, saying that it is key to fair trade and business, businessmen are claiming that it is an invasion of privacy.

The National Assembly is scheduled to vote on the revision bill of the Capital Market Act during its plenary session on Friday. Under the bill, the payrolls of the five highest-paid executives of all companies have to be disclosed to the public twice a year starting from 2018.

This is a huge step forward from the current law that requires registered executives of a company to disclose their salaries if they are paid more than 500 million won a year ($405,000). While registered executives have the legal power to participate in the overall management of the companies, unregistered executives have less power in the boardroom.

Under the regulations, many patriarchs of the controlling families of conglomerates, such as chairman Chung Mong-koo of Hyundai Motor Group and chairman Koo Bon-moo of LG Group, revealed their salaries to the public. However, several moguls stepped down from their registered executive status after the law came into force in 2013, because there was public outcry over the size of their paychecks compared to ordinary workers.

According to Chaebul.com, which traces the wealth of the superrich, among the country's top 30 conglomerates, 78 affiliates listed their chairman as a registered executive in July 2015, about 27.8 per cent lower than the 108 in December 2013.

Nine of the most representative chaebol families do not have any registered executives in their affiliates. This included those in charge of Samsung, SK, Hyundai Heavy Industries, Hanwha, Doosan, Shinsegae, LS, Daelim and Mirae Asset.

The 2016 revised bill will ensure that the salaries of a company's highest-paid workers are subject to disclosure.

Supporters of the bill claim that the current regulations have little impact on the real managerial world as business tycoons who have become unregistered executives still have dominant power in decision-making processes.

Rep. Lee Jong-kul, floor leader of the main opposition Minjoo Party of Korea, had said previously, "We are seeing some cases of business moguls who rake in big payrolls without serving their duties properly."

The Federation of Korean Industries, which is the mouthpiece of Korean businessmen, opposed the bill claiming that it could invade privacy and discourage workers who have worked hard to earn fat paychecks.

"We are also concerned that people who have unveiled their high payrolls could become a target of crimes," a group insider said.

(baejisook@heraldcorp.com)

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