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Kim Ki-sik burned through political donations

Apr 12,2018
A new revelation was made on Wednesday that Kim Ki-sik, the head of the Financial Supervisory Service (FSS), spent 370 million won ($347,800) in political donations in his final five months as a lawmaker, sparking criticism that he rushed to spend the money before his four-year term ended.

The Munhwa Ilbo reported that Kim spent an average of 70 million won a month over the last five months of his term in early 2016 in an apparent effort to spend all of the political contributions he had amassed. Typically, lawmakers return such contributions to their political party or to the state coffers when their terms end without reelection.

Specifically, Kim gave about 20 million won in donations to 16 fellow Democratic Party lawmakers and spent another 22 million won on severance pay for aides in his National Assembly office.

He spent 80 million won financing research he was affiliated with, including an economic think tank called the Economic Reform Research Center.

Kim also took a trip to Europe from May 20 to 27, arriving home two days before the end of his term, spending more than 10 million won in donations on the trip.

After spending the 370 million won, Kim returned the balance of his contributions - 4 million won - to his party when his term ended on May 29.

The FSS issued a press release Wednesday on behalf of its new chief trying to dispel criticism of Kim’s Europe trip. The financial watchdog said the trip was intended to study European financial institutions and their social-economic integration policies. It added the National Election Commission approved in advance that the trip’s expenses could be covered by Kim’s political contributions.

Snowballing allegations about Kim’s past have fueled the opposition’s demand that he be ousted from a position he assumed on April 2, vowing to reform the financial industry.

“The Blue House’s arrogance and self-righteousness have reached another high as it tries to protect Kim Ki-sik,” said Kim Sung-tae, floor leader of the major opposition Liberty Korea Party, at the National Assembly.

Kim has been criticized for three overseas trips he took in 2014 and 2015 as an opposition lawmaker that were paid for by financial institutions he was supposed to oversee, sparking claims of conflict of interest and hypocrisy.

At the time, Kim was serving on the national policy committee in charge of overseeing Korea’s financial industry.

Before his appointment as governor of the FSS, Kim built his career as a critic of the country’s chaebol and their management and ownership structures, earning him the nickname “chaebol sniper.”

Despite growing controversy, the Blue House said Wednesday it remained firm in keeping Kim in the FSS’s top position.

The presidential office said earlier this week that while Kim’s overseas trips “fell short of people’s expectations and standards,” they were not serious enough to warrant his dismissal, adding that its civil affairs office vetted all of Kim’s records and found no wrongdoing.

BY KANG JIN-KYU [kang.jinkyu@joongang.co.kr]