Conglomerate Tycoons in South Korea

By Chang Jae-soon

President Lee Myung-bak plans to call for big businesses to do more to share the benefits of their growth with less well-off members of society when he meets with conglomerate tycoons on Wednesday, an official said.

The lunch meeting with the heads of 26 of South Korea’s 30 largest conglomerates, including Samsung and Hyundai Motor, and the leaders of two major business lobbies was set up to seek understanding and cooperation from conglomerates for Lee’s campaign to narrow social inequalities.

Lee’s drive for what is dubbed “ecosystemic development” was the centerpiece of his Liberation Day address in which he stressed the importance of big businesses playing greater roles in helping smaller firms grow as well to help address social polarization.

Lee coined a word, “ecosystemic,” to describe his yearning for an ecosystem-like society, aides said.

Lee, who promoted pro-business policies in his early years in office, has recently sought to boost his image as a caring leader concerned about the mid- and low-income classes amid complaints that the benefits of growth in big businesses, or chaebol, do not trickle down to the working class.

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