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(LEAD) Park urges big business leaders to share growth with community
SEOUL, Dec. 26 (Yonhap) -- South Korean President-elect Park Geun-hye urged the country's big business leaders Wednesday to share their firms' growth with the larger community in what appeared to be a demonstration of her pledge to carry out economic reform.

   The 60-year-old candidate of the ruling conservative Saenuri Party was elected president last week after campaigning on the pledge to rein in the economic dominance of family-owned conglomerates known as "chaebol" in Korean.

   In her first series of meetings with business leaders since the election, Park stressed her resolve to balance the economy between the haves and the have-nots.

President-elect Park Geun-hye (C) attends a meeting of the Federation of Korean Industries in Seoul on Dec. 26, 2012. (Yonhap)

"I believe big businesses to a large extent belong to the people because their growth came about with the support and sacrifices of the people as well as considerable state support," she told a meeting with business chiefs at the Federation of Korean Industries, the nation's largest business lobby.

   "That is why I believe the goal of conglomerates shouldn't rest at maximizing a firm's profits but should be aimed toward shared growth with the entire community," she added.

   Chaebol have been credited with driving the country's economic growth in recent decades by spearheading exports, but critics accuse them of hurting smaller companies and widening the income disparity gap through their market domination and concentration of wealth.

   Park also asked the business leaders to refrain from layoffs and restructuring in times of economic crisis, and urged them to protect the business rights of mom-and-pop stores by staying away from local commercial areas.

   "Big businesses should compete with global foreign companies," she said.

   The business chiefs also made a number of suggestions to Park, one of which centered on the controversial practice of cross-shareholding by chaebol, which allows a handful of people with small stakes to control the decision-making process at all of their subsidiaries.

   The conservative politician has called for a halt to future cross-shareholding arrangements, stopping short of banning those that are already in place.

   Asked to review her policy on that issue, Park did not give an immediate answer.

   At an earlier meeting with representatives of small and medium-sized enterprises (SME), the president-elect said she would shift the economy from one that relies heavily on the exports of large conglomerates to one in which both big and small firms coexist. Economic growth, she added, should be driven by both exports and domestic demand.

   "I have said that I will become a president of small and medium-sized enterprises and that is why I came (here) first," Park said, noting the catchphrase "9988," which refers to SMEs making up 99 percent of all firms and those companies employing 88 percent of the workforce.

   "In the face of a global economic recession, the biggest responsibility of the next government is to revive the economy," she said. "I will make sure that from now on, SMEs are no longer the supporting actors in the economy but confident leading actors."

   Meanwhile, speaking to reporters after coming out of that meeting, Park said she could announce the members of her transition committee as early as Thursday. The team, led by some two dozen members, will be tasked with ensuring a smooth transfer of power from the incumbent Lee Myung-bak administration to that of Park.

   "I will start announcing (them) one by one, if not all (at once)," she said.

   Sources said compared to previous transition teams, Park's will not be very large with a total of about 100 staff members, including the chairman, vice chairman and several experts who will be asked to check policies that will be pursued by the new administration after Feb. 25.

   The committee is expected to be made up of seven or eight sub-committees handling major policy areas and could also include several task forces for Park's key campaign pledges such as national unity, political reform and economic democratization, according to her aides.

   On Monday, Park appointed her chief of staff, a senior spokesman and two other spokespeople to assist with the power transition process.