IBM tries to clean up South Korean biz with new exec

Bribe fallout

IBM has tapped a new executive to head its scandal-ridden Korean operations.

Antonio Romero will take on the role of president and chief executive for IBM Korea. Romero has worked at IBM for 23 years, most recently as vice president of business development for global sales and distribution in the US. He replaces Chae Chol Shin who departed as bribery charges hit IBM Korea.

IBM Korea fired a number of workers after the South Korean government uncovered a slush fund allegedly used by IT executives to secure contracts. IBM and its Korean affiliates are said to have forked out $55 million in bribes to help spur server and PC sales. A number of government officials were also charged and arrested for bribery.

The charges against IBM executives and the government officials come as part of a large scale anti-corruption campaign in South Korea.

Earlier this week, the mayor of Busan - Ahn Sang-Young - killed himself in jail while awaiting word on his bribery trial. The mayor was said to have taken money for construction contracts.

The LA Times did a nice piece on the nature of bribes in South Korea that you can find here. Just to tempt you - the story begins as follows:

"The money used to arrive in apple crates. Now, it comes by the truckload. The only thing that has changed in South Korea, cynics complain, is the size of the container." ®