the Financial Times’ Christian Oliver, who in a blog post at the FT blasts Seoul’s strategy of using what we at the Marmot’s Hole — lacking as we do both a legal department and the financial wherewithal to withstand major lawsuits — prefer to call upstanding members of the Korean business community as the point men for its efforts to win the 2018 Winter Olympic Games:
South Korea faces tough opponents in winning the 2018 winter Olympics: France and Germany. So it should be relying on its most charming ambassadors, headed perhaps by Kim Yuna, the Olympic figure-skating champion.
Instead, Korea is allowing the country’s most notorious corporate boss to do the lobbying. Kim Seung-youn, chairman of the Hanwha conglomerate, was briefly imprisoned in 2007 for abducting some bar staff to a building site, where he beat them with a steel pipe in revenge for an attack on his son.
Kim, whose sentence was suspended, will be travelling to Europe and the US to lobby for the Olympics to be held in the town of Pyeongchang. His company, which makes chemicals and explosives, is one of the Olympic bid sponsors. In a statement released over the weekend, Hanwha said Kim would be “fully mobilizing his global network” in European countries and would “seek active co-operation from them”. Let’s hope he has some more gentle means of persuasion at his disposal than steel pipes.
As Mr. Oliver notes, this is something of a pattern — the head of another Korean conglomerate, ahem, was also set free to lobby for the games, a move we lambasted here at the time.
Granted, as Mr. Oliver notes, almost nobody outside of Korea knows what any of these guys did, so nobody’s likely to complain. He could have also noted that we are, after all, talking about the IOC.
It’s what this says domestically, however, that’s problematic:
To some extent that is true, but the winter Olympics bid shows that Korea’s political system still panders to business leaders to the extent they feel they are above the law. That is disturbing.
Indeed it is.