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Time for someone new

Apr 11,2018
Kim Ki-sik, the new head of the Financial Supervisory Service (FSS), is under pressure to resign on questions about improprieties he committed as a lawmaker from the opposition. He made overseas trips sponsored by financial institutes that fall under the oversight jurisdiction of a parliamentary committee where he was a senior member. He led the opposition’s campaign to cut the annual budget of Korea Institute for International Economic Policy (KIEP), but upon returning from a 10-day trip paid by the state think tank, he supported the KIEP’s plan to open an office in Europe. He explained that he only voiced his opinion on a disputed issue as head of the subcommittee.

Nevertheless, his opinions coincidentally differed too greatly before and after he went on free oversea trip. In May 2015, he went on a trip to Chongqing, China, at the expense of Woori Bank. After a brief showing at an opening ceremony, he spent the remainder of the stay sightseeing.

He took an intern on the KIEP-paid trip to the United States and Europe. He claimed the intern was well-learned with master’s degree and qualified to assist him on the trip. The intern was eventually promoted to a full-time secretary after the trip, raising suspicions about the fairness in the hiring. The snowballing revelation seriously challenges the new FSS in the role of probing hiring irregularities in financial institutions and upholding ethical integrity in oversight.

The Blue House said it had examined all the allegations about Kim and concluded that the business trips had been part of public duties. The presidential office, which has been stern on wrongdoings of the past administrations, is overly generous with the new faces it recruits. There had been expectations that the FSS could better push ahead with much-needed reforms in the financial sector under a civil activist-turned-politician. As a lawmaker, Kim had been an outspoken critic of public officials’ going on business trips sponsored by the private sector. He also played a key role in passing the antigraft Kim Young-ran law in 2015.

The Blue House said his wrongdoings are not serious enough to cost him his job. But his title is the head of the government’s financial watchdog. The presidential office will be accused of bearing double standards if it keeps a blurry position. The opposition shares the same stance that Kim is unfit for the job. Kim should resign and ask for the prosecution’s probe to clear his name.

JoongAng Ilbo, April 10, Page 30