The Fair Trade Commission tends to "criminalize" all business executives in an investigation, the head of the American Chamber of Commerce in Korea has complained.
Asked about the biggest difficulty foreign businesses face in Korea, James Kim told the Chosun Ilbo the FTC must abide by "proper procedures" and that his comments reflect the demands of foreign businesses which were treated unfairly during inspections by the watchdog.
Kim was speaking on the sidelines of a seminar in Seoul on Friday.
Established in 1953, AMCHAM is the biggest foreign business organization in Korea with around 700 members. In May, AMCHAM member Apple Korea accused an FTC investigator of abusing his position and asked the commission to conduct an internal audit.
One foreign business source said, "The FTC has punished not only companies but individual staff as well, and I believe they use their authority to obtain accounts that could be detrimental to businesses."
The heads of the five foreign business chambers all took part in the AMCHAM seminar titled "Doing Business in Korea in 2018." In a joint statement, they pointed out problems in the FTC's investigative methods as well as other regulatory constraints in Korea.
The heads of AMCHAM, the British Chamber of Commerce in Korea, the European Chamber of Commerce in Korea, French Korean Chamber of Commerce and Industry and Korean-German Chamber of Commerce and Industry in the statement called on the FTC to "follow proper procedures and due process" when conducting investigations.
"When obtaining information and data, it is important to follow proper procedures and due process in the conduct of investigations and the rules applicable to such investigations established" by the FTC.
"We believe it is important for the [FTC] to engage in regular training programs and establish rules similar to those required to be followed by prosecutors in which evidence obtained in violation of the rules of procedure established by the [FTC] cannot be used by the [FTC] in their investigation," they added.
Kim said he believes it is necessary to come up with a platform to discuss "a wide range of issues."
In the statement, the chambers of commerce stressed the need to "give greater weight to the predictability and consistency of the regulatory environment" and "the need for improved coordination between all government agencies in Korea to ensure consistent and predictable enforcement of rules and regulations."
They also urged the government "to develop rules and regulations for industries such as cloud computing that are in line with global standards."
An FTC official denied any impropriety. "There are no cases where evidence was collected by illegal means during our investigation. The FTC handles more than 250 cases a year, and there has not been a single instance where a court has found us guilty of gathering evidence by illegal means."
The heads of five foreign business chambers attend a seminar in Seoul on Friday. From left, Sean Blakeley, CEO of the British Chamber of Commerce in Korea; Christoph Heider, president of the European Chamber of Commerce in Korea; James Kim, chairman of American Chamber of Commerce in Korea; David-Pierre Jalicon, chairman of the French Korean Chamber of Commerce and Industry; and Barbara Zollmann, president of the Korean-German Chamber of Commerce and Industry