SEOUL, Dec. 27 (Korea Bizwire) — South Korea on Friday approved proposed guidelines for shareholder activism by the country’s largest state pension fund, paving the way for the fund to press companies it holds stakes in to dismiss board members over breach of trust and other illegal activities.
“The guidelines are part of efforts to manage the National Pension Service in a more transparent and fair manner,” Health and Welfare Minister Park Neung-hoo said in a meeting of the management committee — the highest decision-making body of the National Pension Service.
Park, who chairs the fund’s management committee, said the pension fund will make principles and standards transparently to ensure that its voting rights are not exercised unilaterally.
The health ministry oversees the world’s third-largest pension fund, which had 714.3 trillion won (US$615.7 billion) in assets under its management as of the end of September.
The pension fund aims to increase the total to over 1,000 trillion won by 2024.
Under the guidelines, the pension fund would be able to actively exercise its stewardship and shareholder rights against companies that have been found to have committed serious crimes, like embezzlement or breach of trust.
The NPS also can demand the dismissal of corporate board members who are suspected of involvement in illegal activities and call for changes to a company’s articles of association, if needed.
The country’s business community voiced concerns that the NPS could unduly interfere in business operations.
The Federation of Korean Industries, which represents South Korea’s large businesses, urged the pension fund to reconsider its guidelines, saying the pension fund’s interference in corporate management and corporate governance could undermine corporate activities.
South Korea adopted the state pension program in 1988 to guarantee income for the elderly after retirement and to provide coverage for disabilities and surviving family members.