South Korea: Hite Jinro said to obstruct investigation on unfair trade practices

Hite Jinro, the world's leading producer of soju, one of South Korea’s largest destillers and the second largest brewing company in the country, came under investigation of Korea’s corporate watchdog Fair Trade Commission (FTC), after obstructing an investigation in April. FTC had been looking into allegations that the company gave illegal business favors to Seoyoung E&T, a company which makes beverage coolers and is controlled by Hite Jinro's owner family. While conducting an on-site inspection at Hite Jinro’s premises some company employees allegedly disrupted the commission’s enforcement.

FTC said that it had launched now an investigation into Hite Jinro and that it will take a firm stance on future instances of probe obstruction and refusal to submit related evidence.

In June, Kim Sang-jo, a hardline antagonist of the chaebol governance (a South Korean form of business conglomerate) took charge of the FTC and started a crackdown on Booyoung Group, a domestic builder and Korea’s 16th largest group by assets. Kim Sang-jo (55), who has been a professor of economics at Hansung University and has played a key role in building consensus for economic reform following South Korea's financial crisis in the late 1990s is also nicknamed chaebol sniper. On Kim’s radar screen, who repeatedly vowed not to be “tolerant or hesitant” in reforming conglomerates, are already other large groups like Harim Group, Korea's top agrifood corporation in livestock and meat protein foods, and Pizza Hut Korea.

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