Of Small Dealers and Worthy Men, South Korea Antitrust Edition

Josh Wright —  9 June 2011

The South Korea Fair Trade Commission has begun an investigation of the Hyundai Motor Group surrounding allegations that Hyundai has, as the WSJ reports, “forced its auto parts suppliers to lower product prices.”   The story comes on the heels of a related fine of 1.6 trillion won ($1.48 billion).    What really jumps out in the WSJ story is the following:

The antitrust watchdog’s latest move comes as the government is expected to place more emphasis on supporting small and midsize companies, many of which continue to experience tough times even as the nation’s conglomerates power the country out of the 2007-2008 global financial crisis.

With South Korea recovering quickly from the crisis, President Lee Myung-bak, whose five-year single term ends in early 2013, has urged South Korea’s conglomerates to try to share the “warmth of the economic recovery” with their smaller peers and prosper together with them.

For the original reference, see here.

Quite a far cry from modern application of antitrust principles in the United States — in the courts anyway.  However, compare President Lee Myung-bak’s language with the Obama administration’s  White Paper on innovation:

Protect small businesses from unfair business practices. In many industries, small companies are critical innovators, bringing enormous benefits to consumers while putting competitive pressure on incumbent firms. The Obama Administration is committed to enforcing the antitrust laws to insure that innovative entrepreneurs are not excluded from the market by anti-competitive conduct. The Department of Justice actively investigates allegations of exclusionary conduct as part of its law enforcement mission to keep markets open and competitive.

See here for earlier discussion on TOTM.