Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

'Nut Rage' and Other Affairs of Nepotism

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

'Nut Rage' and Other Affairs of Nepotism

Article excerpt

A milestone in any nation's history occurs when enough people admire leaders in business or government more for their qualities than their family name. South Korea may be at such a moment, along with a few other countries.

South Koreans have been outraged over an incident last month in which Cho Hyun-ah, the daughter of the chairman of Korean Air Lines Co., flew into a rage after being served macadamia nuts (in a bag rather than on a plate) aboard a plane leaving New York for Seoul. Ms. Cho has since lost her job as head of the airline's in-flight service and faces charges. But the "nut rage incident," as it's been dubbed, created a welcome debate in South Korea about a lingering tolerance toward corporate nepotism - and the sense of entitlement and social inequality it can engender.

"It is foolish of the owners of big corporations to give their children any role in management unless they show at least a modicum of ability," stated an editorial in the newspaper The Chosun Ilbo. "The only way to shed the image of rampant nepotism is to place ability before family ties."

Many of South Korea's major conglomerates ("chaebols") - such as Samsung, Hyundai, and Hanjin Group (which includes Korean Air) - remain under the influence of the families of their founders. These corporate dynasties were useful decades ago when South Korea sought to become an industrial exporter. Yet as studies show worldwide, often the second or third generation of a family-run business fails in its leadership, especially in a globalized economy.

India, too, faces a similar moment in challenging the power of family clans, only in its case, the challenge comes from a new prime minister, Narendra Modi, who was elected last year.

After defeating the political party of the once-powerful Nehru- Gandhi dynasty, Mr. Modi has been campaigning against other dynasties in more than two dozen of India's states. Often these families help further corruption, he points out, and they must be uprooted to bring India's economy into the 21st century. …

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