Impact Player: Kim Sang-jo

Who Is He?
Kim Sang-jo is the recently appointed Director of the Fair Trade Commission and an economics professor at Hansung University. President Moon Jae-in appointed Kim on June 13, 2017.
Throughout the recent snap presidential election, Kim served as an economic adviser to President Moon.

Kim played a crucial role in shaping President Moon’s economic policies during the presidential campaign related to corporate reform. Prior to the elections, Kim had experience in civic advocacy and academia. In 2015, Kim Sang-jo became head of the Financial Research Center of Korea. In 2006, Kim became the director of Solidarity for Economic Reform, a civic group focused on improving corporate governance and advocating for consumer rights.

Under Kim’s leadership, the Solidarity for Economic Reform litigated several successful lawsuits against major corporate opponents, such as the directors of Samsung Electronics and Hyundai Motors. Before joining the Solidarity for Economic Reform, Kim committed to economic equality advocacy work as director of economic reforms for the People’s Solidarity of Participatory Democracy between 2001 and 2006.

After matriculating to Seoul National University in 1981, Kim completed his bachelors, masters, and doctorate in economics by 1993. In 1994, Kim began teaching at Hansung University as an economics professor.

Why has he been in the news?
After undergoing a confirmation hearing on June 2 in the National Assembly, Kim failed to elicit the positive support from the hearing committee which did not reach a decision by the extended deadline of Monday, June 12. Despite a lack of approval from the National Assembly, President Moon went forward in appointing Kim, which could strain the Blue House’s relations with the National Assembly. Opposition to Kim has been fueled by controversies related to various ethical issues, such as his false address registration, self-plagiarism, and his wife’s position as an English lecturer despite her lack of qualifications.

The media reports that a reason why President Moon prioritized Kim’s appointment reflected President Moon keeping to his campaign promises of prioritizing economic revival and chaebol conglomerate reforms.

According to Yoon Young-chan, the Blue House chief press secretary, Kim’s appointment is necessary considering how “the (South Korean) people’s lives are being threatened under extreme economic inequalities. As the president noted in his state of the nation address, we must build a fair economic democracy under fair competition. We cannot continue wasting time.”

What can we expect from him?
Kim is an outspoken critic of South Korea’s chaebol conglomerates.

The media reports that Kim promised to increase the FTC authority in corporate regulation and expand conglomerate monitoring mechanisms. Specific policy measures likely to be enacted under Kim include enhancing the FTC influence to impose higher fines and fiscal burdens on potential violators by revamping the FTC financial penalty system. He also aims to revive the agency’s investigative bureau to take on antitrust policies and monitoring tasks of the chaebol conglomerates.

Mathew Ha

Research Intern, Korea Chair