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Last Updated:  Friday, 14 March, 2003, 15:27 GMT
'No halt' to Korea's anti-graft drive
President Roh Moo-hyun acknowledging his election in December 2002
The president is a former human rights lawyer
South Korea's president has promised to see through the drive to root out corruption in the country's biggest conglomerates.

President Roh Moo-hyun made the pledge in a televised press conference after a week of stock market turmoil in which 10 top executives at oil-to-telecoms giant SK Group were charged with fraudulent accounting.

President Roh said failure or delay in battling corporate corruption would mean "the government's transparency will be under question or be lost", news agency Reuters reported.

Finance Minister Kim Jin-pyo, had earlier insisted that the SK case was "not a common problem", and did not herald any sort of systemic risk.

Rescuing the markets

Regulators have spent the past three days scrambling to calm investor panic since investigators uncovered a $1.2bn hole in the accounts of SK Group affiliate SK Global.

The central bank, which on Thursday announced it was pumping money into financial markets, on Friday increased its injections of cash, spending $1.6bn to prop up tottering bonds.

The Fair Trade Commission promised on Thursday to take its newly-launched inquiry into the accounts of six of South Korea's top firms at a gentle pace.

President Roh, who was elected on an anti-corruption platform, said it would be wrong to delay pursuing known cases because of the impact on the economy.

But he acknowledged: "If we do it all at once, our economy cannot bear it".

Alarm at phone firm

Meanwhile, mobile phone operator SK Telecom, one the most strategically important parts of SK Group, sought on Friday to calm shareholder nerves.

At its annual shareholders' meeting, the firm apologised for a fall of more than one-third in its share price since it announced a controversial 2.5 trillion won (1.3bn; $2bn) investment plan for this year.

It revealed it would consider buying back its shares held by SK Global to support its share price.

SK Global owns a 4.77% stake in the phone firm.

SK Telecom has assured shareholders that it will not be affected by the growing scandal at SK Global, but few at the meeting were convinced.

South Korean markets bounced back on Friday, in line with sharp jumps elsewhere in Asia, but traders said the mood was still nervous.




SEE ALSO:
Firm admits $1.2bn accounts error
11 Mar 03 |  Business
Country profile: South Korea
10 Mar 03 |  Country profiles
Timeline: South Korea
10 Mar 03 |  Country profiles
Korea in 'chaebol' crackdown
04 Mar 03 |  Business
Tests ahead for S Korean leader
25 Feb 03 |  Business


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