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The FSS is no place for an activist

Apr 02,2018
Another “chaebol sniper” has joined the Moon Jae-in administration. Kim Ki-sik, a liberal activist, was named as the new head of the Financial Supervisory Service (FSS).

Kim served as a representative of the Minjoo Party (now the ruling Democratic Party) from 2012 to 2016 after he was recruited from the People’s Solidarity for Participatory Democracy (PSPD), a liberal group. Since the post does not require legislative confirmation, Kim, who is expected to be endorsed by the president, starts work on Monday. It is the first time the financial watchdog has had a former politician and civil rights activist as its head since its founding in 1999.

Jang Ha-sung, President Moon’s policy chief, and Kim Sang-jo, the chairman of the Fair Trade Commission, also came from the PSPD, which was famous for keeping a close eye on family-run conglomerates. Choi Jung-pyo, a professor at Konkuk University and a leader of Citizens’ Coalition for Economic Justice, another anti-chaebol group, was also nominated to head the Korea Development Institute, the state’s think tank. The new recruits suggest that Moon’s progressive administration is gearing up to reform Korea’s large companies.

Kim Ki-sik reviewed policy as a member of the National Assembly’s State Affairs Committee.

As chief secretariat and policy committee head at the PSPD, Kim was active in financial oversight. But many are wary of a choice from outside of the bureaucratic and financial communities. The opposition camp is protesting the nomination, citing Kim’s lack of expertise and experience.

The Liberty Korea Party accused the government of favoring progressive figures to tame the financial industry. The Bareunmirae Party said that no previous government ever had so little regard for expertise. They also worried about worsening government meddling in the financial sector.

Markets are anxious about tougher government regulation. Kim should acknowledge their worries and present himself differently from his days as an opposition lawmaker.

Lawmakers often prize consumer and individual privacy. But the FSS chief must promote the financial industry’s use of big data to create innovative financial products. Kim must remember that he is no longer an activist, but the head of a financial regulator that exercises sovereignty and neutrality.


JoongAng Sunday, Mar. 31-Apr. 1, Page 34