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Posco chief to step down after political pressure

Kwon Oh-joon has been investigated in connection with ex-president's corruption scandal

Kwon Oh-joon will step down before his term ends in March 2020, but will remain in the post until Posco appoints a new chief executive.   © Reuters

SEOUL -- The chief executive of South Korean steelmaker Posco agreed to resign on Wednesday at an emergency board meeting.

Kwon Oh-joon offered his resignation after, it is believed, being pressured by the government to step down. He has been the subject of an investigation in connection with former President Park Geun-hye's corruption scandal.

Kwon, 69, will step down before his term ends in March 2020, but will remain in the post until the company appoints a new chief. He took the helm of Posco in 2014 and was reappointed last year for another three-year term.

"I thought that it would be good to hand over the company's management to a more energetic, competent and younger person than me," Kwon told reporters after the closed board meeting, according to local news media.

Posco has been tainted from a scandal involving Park, in which it was one of several large Korean companies that made political donations to non-profit foundations managed by Park's long-time friend, Choi Soon-sil. Government prosecutors have said that Kwon was forced by Choi to form a Posco fencing team.

A spokesman for Posco has denied that Kwon's resignation was due to government pressure, according to Reuters.

Park was sentenced to 24 years in prison and a fine of 18 billion won ($16.9 million) earlier this month after being convicted of taking more than 23 billion won in bribes from the country's leading conglomerates.

In January, Posco reported a 144% surge in fourth-quarter operating profit, due to its restructuring efforts and the selling of non-core assets under Kwon's leadership.

Eri Sugiura in Tokyo contributed to this report

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