During the past two decades, South Korea has enjoyed a major economic boom that has made it one of the world’s largest and most industrialised economies. It has succeeded in positioning itself to become a prominent economy and source of investments and entertainment on the world stage; this phenomenon even has a term: Hallyu (Korean Wave).

However, despite South Korea’s economic rise and enjoying an increase in influence and standards of living, much of its prosperity has been attributed to a handful of conglomerates, better known as chaebols. Chaebols are large industrial South Korean firms that are owned and controlled by a family, which tend to have a monopoly over any single industry. While these mega-conglomerates have been crucial to the country’s development, they have become prime recipients of public backlash in recent years.

There are primarily three issues with chaebols, that has turned popular opinion against them.

• The first criticism that they receive is that they hold a lot of sway in South Korea’s politics, policies, and governance.

• The second criticism chaebols receive is that their operations have fueled rising costs and increased income inequality.

• The third and probably the most glaring criticism against chaebols is their stranglehold on the Korean economy.

This chaebol problem is not just limited to South Korea, but is rather commonplace in many Asian markets, including Japan, China, Taiwan, etc., with all these economies being vulnerable to most of these issues mentioned above, with Japan being a very obvious case. Therefore, if South Korea and other Asian markets want to secure their economies and enact more independent policies, tackling and breaking the monopoly these mega-conglomerates hold, encouraging small and medium-scale enterprises to spring up, and encouraging self-employment and competition would be some of the necessary first steps to be taken.

HAMZA HAROON,

Lahore, May 23.