Hyundai Quotes About Indicted Chairman Reflect The Strange World of Korean Industry

Check out the comments reported this week by Automotive News by Hyundai spokesman Oles Gadacz. Asked by the reporter if the indictment of chairman Chung Mong Koo on charges he created a $100 million slush fund to bribe various government officials has affected strategic planning issues for Hyundai and related company Kia Motors, Gadacz said: “With chairman Chung not being here, people are sunk….They want to know who they should follow, whose vision it will be. Should they undo Chung’s projects. Noone wants to think of that alternative.”

Hilarious. I can just imagine reporter Mark Rechtin saying to himself, “Did this guy really say that?” It’s not the sort of steady-as-she-goes, the-company-is-bigger-than-the-chairman comment you’d expect to hear from, say, GM’s Steve Harris or Chrysler’s Jason Vines.

What insiders say is that in the oddball world of Korean politics and business, which led to the $100 million gambit to begin with, Gadacz is trying to influence the prosecution (at whose behest? Koo’s?)into thinking that the companies will founder if Koo wears what passes for the orange jumpsuit in Korea. Hyundai is such a big contributor to the Korean economy, Gadacz and Koo are thinking, that maybe the Korean feds will give Koo a big slap on the wrist and allow him to go back to work if they can float the idea that he is indispensable to the company’s fortunes. And I thought the Enron mutton-heads were arrogant.

If it works, just how seriously will the investment community take Hyundai and the South Korean government?

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