Wed, Jul 09, 2003 - Page 3 News List

Chen wants SEF chief Koo Chen-fu to stay on the job

By Lin Chieh-yu  /  STAFF REPORTER

President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) has asked Koo Chen-fu (辜振甫), chairman of the Koo's Group (和信集團), to continue in his role as chairman of the Straits Exchange Foundation.

"President Chen met with Koo, who is also a senior advisor to the president, at the Presidential Office on July 3 and asked for his advice on cross-strait relations and the international situation," said Presidential Office spokesman James Huang (黃志芳).

"The president was very concerned about Koo's health, and asked him to attach importance to national affairs and to continue to lead the foundation because the government needs his incomparable experience in cross-strait communication," Huang said.

Huang was responding to Chinese-language media reports claiming that Koo went to the Presidential Office to tell Chen that he wanted to resign from the foundation.

The 86-year-old Koo is head of the Koo's Group.

The family business was recently split into two groups, one headed by Koo and the other lead by his 69-year-old nephew Jeffrey Koo (辜濂松), chairman and chief executive officer of Chinatrust Financial Holding Co.

Huang said that Chen had initially intended to visit Koo at his residence, following his recent return from a trip to the US. But Koo insisted on going to see Chen to order to show his respect for the president.

"President Chen asked Koo take care of his health for the sake of the country," Huang said.

The spokesman said that Chen praised Koo's recent visits to Japan, during which he met with many high-level officials as part of his effort to improve bilateral relations.

Koo, who has close ties with the Japanese imperial family as well as political and business officials, attended a tea party hosted by Emperor Akihito early last month.

He also made a stopover in Tokyo on his way home from the US late last month in order to meet with several senior Japan-ese politicians.

Health concerns were reportedly behind Koo's desire to resign from the foundation.

He went to the US earlier this year for a routine kidney check-up, but his health has reportedly not improved significantly.

The death of his son Koo Chi-yun (辜啟允) last year as well as corporate issues reportedly also contributed to his desire to resign from the government posts.

Asked by reporters whether Koo offered to resign at last week's meeting, Huang said Koo is an extremely meticulous person who did not want to create problems for the government.

"Koo is highly respected by the ruling party and opposition circles. The importance that Chen attaches to Koo is beyond doubt, so Chen strongly hopes that Koo would stay on," Huang said.

"Neither of them talked about resignation during the meeting, but they clearly understood each other's intent," he said.

Koo accepted Chen's opinion, Huang said.

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