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终结韩国财阀势力?说来容易做来难

更新时间:2017-5-9 18:14:24 来源:纽约时报中文网 作者:佚名

South Korea’s Powerful Family Business Ties Could Be Tough to Cut
终结韩国财阀势力?说来容易做来难

Forget Machiavelli, or “Game of Thrones.” When it comes to staying in power, South Korea’s richest business clans have the game plan down.

忘记马基雅维利或者《权力的游戏》(Game of Thrones)吧。说到如何维系权力,韩国最富有的商业家族对个中诀窍了如指掌。

There is the charity maneuver, in which family members park their stakes in their business empires in philanthropic nonprofits, letting them keep control without paying heavy taxes.

其中有慈善策略:家族成员把他们在自家商业帝国中的股份注入非营利性慈善组织,由此既能掌控一切,又可避开重税。

There is the new company maneuver, in which they create new firms that strike lucrative and friendly business deals with the others they control.

有新公司策略:他们开办新公司,让其与自己控制的其他公司达成有利可图且友好的商业交易。

And then there is old-fashioned corporate engineering, in which they merge arms of their empires together to consolidate power, even as other shareholders complain.

还有老式的企业架构安排:他们把自家商业帝国的分支合并到一起,以巩固权力,即便招致其他股东的抱怨也在所不惜。

With South Korea’s biggest business empire, Samsung, caught up in a nationwide political scandal, a new generation of South Korean leaders has vowed to rip up that playbook. Major candidates in Tuesday’s election for president have said they will clamp down on South Korea’s family-controlled business empires, called chaebol, which dominate the country’s economy and have amassed immense political power.

在韩国最大商业帝国三星(Samsung)卷入一桩全国性政治丑闻之际,新一代韩国领导人发誓要摒弃这一套手段。周二大选的主要候选人纷纷表示,他们会打压称为财阀(chaebol)的家族式企业帝国,这种企业主导着这个国家的经济,并积聚起了巨大的政治权力。

“Chaebol family control as we know it could end with this generation,” said Kim Woochan, a professor of finance at Korea University Business School in Seoul, the South Korean capital, pointing to an intensifying backlash against inherited wealth. “An opportunity as good as this one is unprecedented.”

“我们所熟知的财阀家族控制力可能会被这一代人终结,”首尔高丽大学商学院(Korea University Business School)金融学教授金宇陈(Kim Woochan,音)说,他指出继承所得财富正招致越来越强烈的不满。“现在有一个前所未有的好机会。”

But that could be easier said than done, South Korean officials and experts say. While the public blames the chaebol for an embarrassing series of political and business scandals and for holding back the country’s once-surging economy, they continue to hold considerable political power. Their controlling families have also proved adept at finding ways to keep control, even as they face increasing challenges from inheritance taxes, unhappy outside investors and their own family squabbling.

但韩国官员和专家认为,说起来容易做起来难。财阀正因卷入一系列尴尬的政治和商业丑闻,并拖累韩国一度蒸蒸日上的经济而受遭到公众的谴责,但它们依然掌控着不可小觑的政治权力。此外,事实证明,控制它们的那些家族颇为擅于找出继续控制它们的方法,即便面临着来自遗产税、不满的外部投资者以及家族内部权斗的愈演愈烈的挑战。

“Leaders, markets — they don’t change overnight,” said Rhyu Sang-young, a professor of political economy at Yonsei University in Seoul. “Every culture has a strong legacy, inertia. It takes time.”

“领导人,市场——这些不会在一夜之间改变,”首尔延世大学(Yonsei University)政治经济学教授柳相永(Rhyu Sang-young,音)说。“每种文化都有其强大的遗产和惯性。改变需要时间。”

The front-runner in Tuesday’s election, Moon Jae-in, has vowed to stop families from using nonprofit foundations, complicated shareholding plans and other methods to keep control of businesses. One of his main advisers is Kim Sang-jo, an economist known for hawkish views on the chaebol.

在周二的大选中占据优势的文在寅(Moon Jae-in)公开宣布,要阻止各家族利用非营利性基金、复杂的持股计划以及其他方式保持对企业的控制。他的主要顾问之一、经济学家金相九(Kim Sang-jo,音),以其对财阀问题的鹰派观点闻名。

But the Democratic Party, led by Moon, holds only 119 seats in the 300-member legislature, the National Assembly. The Democrats would find it hard to get support from rival parties in passing chaebol reform bills through a fractured legislature, where a pro-business lobby also remains strong. Passing a bill will take many months of wrangling.

但在共有300个议席的立法机关国民大会,文在寅领导的民主党仅占119个席位。民主党人将会发现,很难从对抗党派那里得到支持,让一个四分五裂的立法机构通过财阀改革法案,亲商界的游说力量对这里依然有很大影响力。一项法案要经过很多个月的角力才会被通过。

Moon has also promised to make prosecutors more independent and to make it more difficult for a president to abuse the power of the office, limiting the ability of chaebol to collude with officials and escape justice. But such reforms would likely require a revision of the constitution, which would be very difficult to pull off given the nation’s fractious politics.

文在寅还承诺,要让检察官更加独立,让总统更加难以滥用职权,制约财阀与官员相勾结、逃避法律制裁的能力。但实施此类改革可能需要修宪,鉴于韩国政局颇为混乱,这简直难于上青天。

Mounting distrust of the chaebol culminated earlier this year in the arrest and indictment of Lee Jae-yong, Samsung’s de facto chief, on bribery and other charges related to a scandal that ousted South Korea’s president and led to Tuesday’s election. Lee, who also goes by the name Jay Y. Lee, is a member of the third generation of a family that controls a business empire that makes its famous mobile phones, builds the world’s tallest skyscrapers — an affiliate constructed the Burj Khalifa in Dubai — operates hospitals, hotels and theme parks, and even offers credit cards.

今年早些时候,随着实际执掌三星的李在镕(Lee Jae-yong)因为行贿以及关乎一桩丑闻的其他指控而被捕并遭到起诉,公众对财阀日益增长的不信任感达到了顶点。这桩丑闻导致韩国总统下台,促成了周二的大选。李在镕所在家族控制下的商业帝国,生产名号响亮的手机,修建了全世界最高的一些摩天大楼——其子公司在迪拜建造了哈利法塔(Burj Khalifa),还运营医院、酒店和主题公园,甚至提供信用卡。他是这个家族的第三代成员。

But frustration with the chaebol has been building for years. Critics blame the conglomerates for a number of social ills, including corruption, inequality and the crowding out of smaller and potentially more innovative businesses. Shares in the chaebol trade at lower prices than they otherwise would — the so-called Korea discount — because outside investors fear founding families will shortchange them.

但对财阀的失望之情已积聚多年。批评人士把多种社会病症归咎于大企业集团,其中包括腐败、不平等,以及规模较小但可能更具创新精神的企业遭受的排挤。财阀股票的交易价格低于应有水平——即所谓的韩国折扣——因为外部投资者担心自己被创始家族亏待。

They face other challenges — in particular, taxes. Perhaps surprisingly in a country where dynasties have persisted, inheritance taxes in South Korea are high — for the wealthy, 50 percent or more.

它们还面临着其他挑战——尤其是税赋方面的挑战。韩国的遗产税很高,针对富人的税率高达50%或以上,在一个王朝统治经久不衰的国家里,这或许颇为令人意外。

That is where the power-preservation playbook comes in.

这就是为什么会有这一套保留权力的手段。

One solution has been to transfer stakes in chaebol companies to family-controlled charities. One such charity, the Samsung Foundation of Culture, is one of the biggest shareholders in Samsung Electronics, the jewel of the Samsung empire, holding a stake of close to 8 percent.

一个办法是,把自己在财阀企业中的股权转移到由家族控制的慈善基金中去。三星文化基金会(Samsung Foundation of Culture)就是这样一种慈善基金,它持有三星帝国的明珠三星电子(Samsung Electronics)将近8%的股份,是其最大的股东之一。

Another option is to ensure that chaebol heirs get rich before their parents die. That can be accomplished by setting up small companies under an heir’s control, then making them bigger using the family’s business connections.

另一个办法是确保财阀继承人在其父母去世前致富。要达到这一目标,可以先创办受控于继承人的小公司,然后利用家族的商业关系让小公司发展壮大。

Critics say that is what happened at Hyundai Motor, where Chung Eui-sun, the son of the carmaker’s chairman, invested in a small logistics company in 2001. The company, now called Hyundai Glovis, quickly secured lucrative contracts with Hyundai affiliates. Within a few years Hyundai Glovis and Chung were worth billions. A Hyundai spokeswoman declined to comment on the arrangement.

批评人士称,现代汽车(Hyundai Motor)就是这种情况。其会长之孙郑义宣(Chung Eui-sun)在2001年投资了一家小物流公司。现在名为现代格拉维斯(Hyundai Glovis)的这家公司,很快就跟现代的子公司签订了利润丰厚的合约。没过几年,现代格拉维斯和郑义宣本人都拥有了数以十亿计的身家。现代的一名发言人拒绝就相关安排置评。

Lee of Samsung, who is technically vice chairman but leads the conglomerate on behalf of his ill father, also benefited from maneuvers designed to preserve family power. Starting in 1996, when Lee was just 28, Samsung companies began issuing him cut-price bonds that he was later able to convert into stock, allowing him to accumulate valuable ownership stakes at a fraction of the market cost. Lee’s father, Lee Kun-hee, was ultimately convicted of breach of trust in connection with the deals — though he was later pardoned, and the younger Lee was allowed to keep his shares.

三星的李在镕名义上是副会长,但却代表生病的父亲实际执掌着这家企业集团。他也是旨在保留家族权力的一些策略的受益者。从1996年,也就是李在镕28岁那年起,三星的公司便开始向他发售日后可被转换成股票的折价债券,让他有机会以远远低于市场水平的成本积累宝贵的股份。李在镕的父亲李健熙(Lee Kun-hee),最终被判定违反关乎这些交易的信托义务——不过他后来得到赦免,李在镕也获准保留自己的股份。

Another maneuver is at the heart of the charges against him. The merger of two Samsung companies in 2015 made Lee the dominant shareholder in a crucial part of the Samsung empire. Lee earlier this year was accused of bribing Park and others to push another major shareholder, the government’s pension system, to approve the deal. Lee denies the charges and says he was a victim of extortion.

另一个策略在他所面临的指控中处于核心位置。2015年,三星的两家公司合并,让李在镕在三星帝国一个关键组成部分里成为具有支配权的股东。李在镕于今年早些时候被控向朴槿惠等人行贿,以促使另一个大股东——国家养老基金——允准此项交易。李在镕否认了相关指控,说自己是敲诈勒索的受害者。

Outside shareholders, which could be a point of pressure, still do not have a big voice. Many chaebol companies have long been publicly traded, but their size and success has drawn outside investors who clamor for greater say and better governance. In the case of Samsung, a U.S. hedge fund, Elliott Associates, objected to the deal that led to the bribery charges against Lee. But the hedge fund failed to block it.

外部股东可以施加一定的压力,不过还没有太大的话语权。很多财阀公司早已上市,但它们凭借自己的规模和成功,与吵着要求获得更大话语权、进行更有效治理的外部投资者打了个平手。以三星为例,美国对冲基金埃利奥特(Elliott Associates)曾反对推进给李在镕招来贿赂指控的这项交易,但未能成功加以阻止。

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