With new sheriff in town, South Korea big businesses duck for cover

South Korea's new President Moon Jae-In speaks during a press conference at the presidential Blue House in Seoul on May 10, 2017. REUTERS/Jung Yeon-Je/Pool

By Joyce Lee and Se Young Lee

SEOUL (Reuters) - A South Korean retail giant has shelved controversial expansion plans, while a large bank made hundreds of contract jobs permanent after President Moon Jae-in took office vowing to reform the family-run conglomerates that dominate the economy.

The 64-year-old liberal leader campaigned on a platform of curbing the power of the conglomerates, or chaebol. On Wednesday, he nominated an economist nicknamed "chaebol sniper" for his shareholder activist campaigns as head of the antitrust regulator.

Moon has yet to spell out his reform agenda, and the fractured parliament, controlled by conservative and moderate politicians, would likely only support modest changes, given the chaebol's outsized role in the economy.

But some companies are choosing to stay out of the crosshairs even before they see any legislation. Business lobby groups say they will work with Moon in creating jobs - the president's No.1 priority according to his advisers.

South Korea's four biggest chaebol groups - Samsung, Hyundai Motor, SK and LG - account for half the country's stock market value. They released full-page ads after Moon's election, featuring his photo and saying they "will be with (President Moon) to make a better country."

"They don't want to be the first to cause some kind of a problem," said Chang S....

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