JP Morgan CEO's China apology raises questions over Shinsegae heir's 'hardball' stance

By Yi Whan-woo

JP Morgan CEO Jamie Dimon's apology last week over his offhand remark concerning the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) is raising questions over whether it is appropriate from a business perspective for Shinsegae Group Vice Chairman Chung Yong-jin to refuse to take back anti-communist sentiment he expressed recently.

JP Morgan and Shinsegae Group are among numerous foreign companies operating in China, whose government and people have been sensitive about anything that might be construed as questioning or offending its legitimacy.

Such extreme nationalism has been best represented through consumer boycotts of multinational enterprises that, whether intentional or not, were judged to have offended China.

Under the circumstances, the measures taken by Chung, who is the first in line to succeed management control over the conglomerate, are the opposite of what Dimon did after sensing that his casual remark about the CCP could jeopardize JP Morgan's China business and apologizing shortly afterward.

Dimon issued two separate apologies to China after jokingly telling a group of American business leaders that JPMorgan Chase would outlast the CCP.

The controversial comment was made during his speech in Boston, Nov. 23, when Dimon said JP Morgan marks 100 years of operating in China, while the CCP was also founded in 1921.

"I'll make a bet that we last longer," he joked, which attracted global attention and was addressed to the Chinese foreign ministry.

In his apologies, he clarified that the comment was intended to stress the longevity of JPMorgan's China business rather than criticize the party.

The U.S. firm, through its spokesperson, also explained Dimon acknowledges that he should never speak lightly or disrespectfully about another country or its leadership.

The foreign ministry downplayed the issue two days after Dimon's Nov. 25 remark, saying, "We hope relevant media will stop hyping up this issue."

Chung brought up the subject of communism, Nov. 15, when he posted a photo of himself posing with two staffers at a pizza restaurant.

The logo printed on the pizza box as well as the outfits of the two staffers were red, and accordingly, Chung wrote, "For some reason, the photo looks as if it is related to the communist party."

He went on to write, "Don't misunderstand. I hate communism."

Chung, who is 53, pointed to the Cold War that raged on during his childhood and explained that he was educated to be anti-communist.

On Nov. 24, he once again wrote "I hate communism," in relation to North Korea's public execution of people who watched the South Korean dystopian drama "Squid Game," which became the world's most-watched Netflix show.

Jung Yeon-sung, a business administration professor at Dankook University, viewed the Shinsegae Group scion should be "prudent with his words."

"Everyone has freedom of speech, but in the case of Chung, he is in a position of responsibility and it would be better to refrain from making comments that can be misunderstood or misinterpreted," the professor said.

Yi Whan-woo

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