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A fishy appointment

Mar 11,2020
Nam Ki-myung — who is heading a task force to establish a new law enforcement agency aimed at punishing the corruption of senior government officials — has been named as an outside director on the board of Hana Bank. His seat would become official if the nomination is passed at the shareholders’ meeting on March 19. The task force was set up on Feb. 10. It is inappropriate that he accepted the title that pays over 50 million won ($41,700) a year, while overseeing an important public task force to establish an extraordinary law enforcement agency separate from the prosecution.

Nam would have great influence over the new agency that kicks off in July. The task force is comprised of 10 figures from various sectors. Some of them could stay within the law enforcement agency. If Nam is willing, he could go on wielding influence over the agency through internal connections. He will also get involved in selecting prosecutors and investigators for the separate law enforcement agency. Although bank employees do not fall under the jurisdiction of the new agency, government employees of financial authorities and antitrust agencies do. Bureaucrats in financial supervisory institutions have often been caught colluding with financial institutions or their employees. As a result, financial institutions recruit retired prosecutors or senior officials from the government’s financial watchdogs as their outside board directors.

Financial institutions claim that they only seek their expertise, but the real design is to use their credentials and connections in case the institutions fall under state scrutiny. Nam, who had been a former minister of government legislation, would not have accepted the offer without knowing the apparent intention.

The new law enforcement agency is set to become one of the most powerful state authorities as it can investigate and indict all senior public employees, even including judges and prosecutors. But a figure in charge of preparing to establish such a powerful agency has eyes on another office, arguably for profit.

Nam was a deputy and administrator of the Ministry of Government Legislation under President Roh Moo-hyun. He would have ties with Roh’s then-chief of staff, President Moon Jae-in. His appointment to the head of the task force already stirred controversy over the neutrality of the new law enforcement agency. He must turn down the board seat before it is too late.