Advertisement
YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections

The Ross Perot of South Korea Puts Ours to Shame : Elections: Chung Ju Yung is a multibillionaire entrepreneur running for president, and he makes his American counterpart look like a softie.

October 11, 1992|Donald Kirk | Donald Kirk, a foreign correspondent, is working on a book titled "Hyundai: A Korean Dynasty."

SEOUL — Ross Perot has an act-alike/talk-alike, if not quite look-alike, running for president of South Korea. The difference between "Korea's Ross Perot," as Chung Ju Yung is often called in newspapers, and America's own is that the Korean version out-Perots Perot.

Chung is the multibillionaire founder of Hyundai, South Korea's largest business group. Approaching his 77th birthday in December, when the presidential election will be held, he out-Perots Perot by just about any scale imaginable.

Money? Chung's publicity machine officially puts his wealth at $4 billion, but some sources say he's worth $6.5 billion--$2.5 billion richer than Perot.

Entrepreneurial skills? Son of a peasant farmer, Chung built the Hyundai group from a side-street garage into a 42-company conglomerate of ventures ranging from motor vehicles to computers to petrochemicals to shipbuilding to tanks to railway cars. Perot built his fortune in computer services.

Most of all, Chung out-Perots Perot in the scorn he heaps upon his government for its "mistakes." So audacious is his contempt for the policies of a regime on which he once depended for huge contracts and easy credit that Perot, by comparison, seems the soft-spoken, timid intellectual. So proud is Chung of his qualifications, so confident is he of becoming president, that he is increasingly annoyed by the tendency of every Western journalist who interviews him to compare him to Perot. Indeed, interview applicants are advised not to include the P-word among the questions they are required to submit in advance.

The man who built the world's largest shipyard, who spat out Korea's first mass-produced cars, who constructed the Gulf's biggest port complex at Jubail scorns losers. He thinks Perot's a loser. Better that interviewers should ask Chung what advice he would offer Perot. Consider this imaginary dialogue, based on what Chung has actually done in his pursuit of the presidency.

Perot: How would you advise me to run my campaign?

Chung: Kick all your companies out of a downtown office building, draft legions of workers from throughout your business organization and inform them they are now "volunteers" for your newly formed United People's Party. Pay big money to your district leaders throughout the country and use your sales network as a vote-gathering infrastructure. Promise union organizers fat contracts if they bring out the workers' vote.

P: What about fund raising? Should I ask for donations?

C: Forget the donations. You're rich. Pay for it all. Spread it around. You only live once. Oh, and there are a couple of other gimmicks. Get the funds from some of your companies put into "secret funds" you can tap. You don't have that many companies? Anyway, you must have secret funds. Every billionaire has them. One more thing: sell back your stock to your employees. Offer them bargain prices, but get them to put up the cash. You can deduct the money from their paychecks. No problem. They'll love the sense of ownership. I unloaded most of my ship-building company that way--but held on to enough of it to make sure my sixth son, my right-hand man in my campaign, could still run it.

P: What if the FBI and the Security Exchange Commission get after me--and catch me or my people in some violation of the law?

C: Great! They will be martyrs. That's what happened to my fifth son. They held him in jail for four months, claiming he had diverted money from one of the companies I gave him. Now he's free and a hero. They also held two former top executives of the company. They're two of my closest advisers.

The authorities wanted to cut off credit for my companies and break up my group, but they figured the bad publicity was only helping me. There's nothing like persecution by the authorities to make you a cult figure.

P: All right, but how can I go around so freely criticizing those idiots whom I'm running against if my aides are in jail?

C: Don't let them intimidate you. The more they harass you, the harder you go after them. Listen to what I said in my nomination speech. My country's ruling party has already "admitted its own failure," I declared. Only I can "change our nation's trade deficit into a surplus." I said I not only knew the causes of the deficit but could offer "correct prescriptions" to cure them. Aren't you saying the same thing? If you ever lose confidence, just copy my speeches. You can read my lips. Your people will love it.

P: Well, yes, but I'm having a big problem with the media. They say bad things about me and ask nosy questions and don't quote the stuff I want them to quote. What do I do?

Advertisement
Los Angeles Times Articles
|
|
|