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SEOUL, March 26 (Yonhap) -- South Korea's financial regulator and antitrust watchdog are not upholding their duty as the guardians of the market economy because their staff members often join private companies after retirement, the head of a local think tank said Tuesday.
Kim Kwang-doo, the head of the Institute for the Future of State, said the country's family-controlled conglomerates, known as chaebol, are to blame for the situation, noting officials of the Fair Trade Commission (FTC) and the Financial Supervisory Service (FSS) often join large companies or law firms after retirement.
"FTC and FSS officials do not properly carry out their role of safeguarding the market economy," Kim said in a forum at a Seoul hotel. "It is not a matter of capabilities, but temptation that has something to do with chaebol."
A professor emeritus of economics at Seoul's Sogang University, Kim served as an economic policy adviser for President Park Geun-hye during the 2012 presidential campaign.
His comments underscore the ills of a long-held practice in South Korea where government and judicial officials give favors to their former colleagues who either join chaebol or law firms after retirement.
The practice is believed to be widespread in the legal community and other sectors of South Korean society where personal connections are often seen as a potential solution for some problems.
Calls for ending the practice have spiked in recent years after revelations that ex-financial regulators sought to help troubled savings banks avoid punishment for irregularities.
A spokesman for the FTC was not immediately available for comment.
Kim's accusation came a day after Han Man-soo, President Park's choice to lead the anti-trust watchdog, withdrew his nomination amid allegations that he has been holding secret overseas bank accounts to evade taxes.
Han, a law professor at Ewha Womans University, has also been criticized for his career at a major law firm known to represent the benefits of large corporations.
Kim also called on the two regulators to come up with frameworks to ensure fair transactions among small and big companies as a way to promote economic democratization.
Economic democratization is one of the key campaign promises made by Park who pledged to ease the excessive concentration of wealth among a few large conglomerates.
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