[THE INVESTOR] Mounting suspicions over the integrity of the newly appointed financial watchdog chief is adding a burden on the Moon Jae-in administration, which has vowed to eradicate “accumulated evil practices” and to restore trust in the nation’s public functions.
Financial Supervisory Service Gov. Kim Ki-sik found himself hard pressed on April 9 as opposition political parties raised pressure for his ouster, taking issue with his past overseas business trips sponsored by financial institutions in an alleged lobbying attempt.
Financial Supervisory Service Gov. Kim Ki-sik
The controversy concerning the new FSS chief put the presidential office Cheong Wa Dae and the ruling Democratic Party of Korea in an awkward position, as Kim’s predecessor Choe Heung-sik had just made a hurried exit amid a hiring irregularity scandal.
“The (disputed) business trips involved official agendas,” Kim told reporters on his way to the office, denying speculations that the trips had been offered as kickbacks in exchange for favors.
“But I do accept the criticism that (the trips) were inappropriate in the public’s perspective and (for this) I apologize.”
Besides his brief remark, which was more or less a repetition of his official apology from the previous day, Kim maintained silence over the controversy throughout the day.
While the governor was largely expected to speak at a press conference on the special investigation into Samsung Securities’ latest trading chaos, the event was instead led by Senior Deputy Gov. Won Seung-yeon who is in charge of supervising financial investment services.
Kim, who took office as the head of the FSS on April 2, has been under fire for trips paid for by the Korea Exchange, the Korea Institute for International Economic Policy and Woori Bank in 2014 and 2015. He was at the time lawmaker of the then-opposition Democratic Party and member of the parliamentary Strategy and Finance Committee, in charge of monitoring the operations of financial institutes including the three trip sponsors.
The three opposition parties -- the Liberty Korea Party, the Bareunmirae Party and the Democratic Peace Party – criticized Kim over his earlier claim that he had not given any favors in return of the travel expenses.
In his official apology, Kim underlined that he had not given favors to the corresponding institutions in return for the travel expenses, a controversial remark which seemed to admit the trip sponsors’ lobbying intentions.
Rep. Woo Won-shik, floor leader of the ruling party, also pointed out that Kim had advocated policies that worked against the interests of the corresponding institutes, including a budget cut of the KIIEP.
“Kim should step forward before the people and face legal judgment, instead of hiding behind excuses,” said Rep. Kim Sung-tae, floor leader of the conservative main opposition Liberty Korea Party, in a party meeting.
Connecting the FSS chief’s past alleged misdeeds to the watchdog’s failure to prevent the latest Samsung Securities’ system error, the opposition parties urged the Blue House to withdraw its appointment of Kim.
Boosting speculations that the presidential office may give into the escalating pressure was the fast that President Moon Jae-in has not yet offered a certificate of appointment to Kim. The Blue House, however, denied the rumor.
“No certificate is necessary for the FSS governor appointment as the post has already been confirmed upon the motion by the Financial Services Commission chairman and approval by the president,” a Cheong Wa Dae official told reporters.
Meanwhile, a survey by local pollster Realmeter showed on April 9 that President Moon’s approval rating had slipped by 1.4 percentage points from the previous week, tallying at 68.1 percent.
By Bae Hyun-jung/The Korea Herald (firstname.lastname@example.org)