Commentary: Why Korea's Crony Capitalists Are Still In Charge

It has been a frustrating year for Lee Jong Hoon. Last December, he bought 2,000 shares in Korea Gas Corp., where he worked as an assistant planning manager. The state-owned utility was selling a minority stake to the public and listing itself on the Seoul bourse. So Lee figured the investment was a sure bet. He was wrong. The stock never moved above its initial price of $27.50. In fact, it has lost almost half its value, thanks partly to management fumbles by its politically connected bosses. "What you need is a professional manager at the helm, not a government puppet," says Lee, who is active in the company's 20,000-strong union. So when the government nominated a politician to become the company's new CEO in September, Lee and his fellow union members took out an angry newspaper ad demanding management reform.

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