Hanjin Group Chairman Cho Yang-ho will voluntarily appear at a parliamentary hearing due next week to make his case regarding the shipping chaos triggered after the group's container shipping line Hanjin Shipping went under court receivership. It is very rare for a chief of the country's large conglomerates, generally known as Chaebol that dominates the country's economy, to appear before the parliamentary hearing that is highly scrutinized by media and the public.
According to sources on Friday, Cho reportedly delivered his intent to stand to testify as a witness during a parliamentary inspection. "Chairman Cho appears to have something he wants to share with politicians and the public regarding the Hanjin Shipping issue. Our understanding is that he is preparing for his presence at the hearing next week or early October," said a high-ranking official of Hanjin Group who declined to be named due to the sensitivity of the matter. An unnamed National Assembly official also confirmed that Chairman Cho has sent notice of his intent to attend the parliamentary inspection.
Cho's appearance is expected to fall next Tuesday or October 4.
The political circle pays attention to Cho's intent delivered even before the whole list of witnesses for the parliamentary inspection has yet to be finalized.
"Cho took over Hanjin Shipping against his will virtually due to the pressure from the government (in 2014), but many are trying to brand him as an unethical man and he seems to be very discouraged by this situation," said a politician. Since the country's largest and world's seventh-largest container carrier filed for a creditor-led debt restructuring program in April, its parent Hanjin Group's Chairman Cho has been heavily criticized for his lack of actions to salvage the sinking shipper.
Last week, President Park Geun-hye also slammed Hanjin Group, saying Korean exporters and importers were severely hit by the lackadaisical state of mind of shipping companies that the government will eventually have to come forward to clear up the mess.
Arm-twisted by the government and financial authorities, Chairman Cho had put up 40 billion won out of his own pocket to help the container carrier. At an upcoming hearing, Cho is expected to clarify his position on the criticism against himself.
Cho Yang-ho, the eldest son of Hanjin Group founder Cho Choong-hoon, acquired Hanjin Shipping in 2014 to normalize the money-losing company under the leadership of his sister-in-law Choi Eun-young who took the helm of the shipping company in 2007 following the death of her husband and the shipper's chief. Its largest shareholder Korean Air Lines Co. and other sister companies have injected massive amounts of cash into the shipping line, but they failed to prevent the container carrier from falling in court protection amid a protracted slump in the industry.