The 2017 impeachment and removal of Park Geun-hye 박근혜 dealt a blow to the Federation of Korean Industries 전국경제인연합회, a trade association of South Korea’s largest corporations that once wielded outsized influence on the country’s economy and politics. South Korea’s four largest chaebol 재벌 - Samsung 삼성, Hyundai Motors 현대자동차, SK Group and LG Group - quit the association in 2016 when it was revealed that FKI acted as a conduit for the Park administration to demand “donations” from major corporations to nominally non-profit groups managed by Park’s confidant Choi Sun-sil 최순실.
But FKI may be getting its crown jewels back. On August 18, Samsung head of compliance Lee Chan-hee 이찬희 삼성 준법감시위원장 announced that Samsung could re-join the FKI, on the condition that it will resign again if the association reverts to becoming a political operation. The announcement is considered a signal of Samsung’s willingness to return provided that the group takes steps to insulate itself from political influence, and is likely to pave the way for Hyundai, SK and LG to do the same. The Democratic Party 민주당 criticized the move, saying the corporations’ return to the FKI “signals a blatant intent to usher in a new era of corruption.”