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[Meet the CEO] Ex-Im Bank chief seeks South America ties 

CEO Kim says will seek alliances with lenders in the region


The state-run Export-Import Bank of Korea is pushing to enhance cooperation with Latin American lenders to support the nation’s growing presence in the rapidly growing region.

Its chairman and president Kim Yong-hwan stressed the importance of linking Korean enterprises with Brazil ahead of the 2014 World Cup finals and 2016 Summer Olympic Games in the country.

“In case of Brazil, there will soon be a series of biddings for a large-scale infrastructure development and its high-speed railway project,” he told The Korea Herald last Friday.

He cited figures that business orders from the continent surged to $2.07 billion in 2010 from $717 million a year earlier.

“The continent is a very attractive market to Korean enterprises,” he said. “More companies are shifting their main focus from the Middle East to Central and South American region.”

The percentage of orders from the Middle East out of the total declined from 72.6 percent in 2009 to 65.9 percent in 2010, according to Ex-Im Bank data.

Over the past few weeks, he was busy preparing for an international meeting which will be a crucial point for the bank’s future projects. Last Saturday he left for the annual meeting of Inter-American Development Bank, slated for March 25-28 (local time) in Calgary, Canada.

Kim said he plans to hold concrete talks with senior officials from the IDB and ministers from its member countries including Bolivia and Nicaragua.

“In particular, by pushing for a bilateral meeting with IDB president Luis Alberto Moreno there, our bank will generate practical ways for coordination with the organization.”

The IDB, composed of 48 members such as Argentina, Mexico and the U.S., has been playing a large role in the economic and social development of Latin American and Caribbean nations since 1959.

At the meeting, Ex-Im Bank plans to sign a memorandum of understanding with Bolivia, under which Korean firms will develop resources like lithium and tungsten.

The annual meeting is expected to become a steppingstone while Korea Ex-Im Bank ― supported by the Finance Ministry and the IDB ― is scheduled to host the Korea-Latin American Countries Business Summit in Seoul this October.

The bank is also considering ways to clinch strategic alliances with lenders in the region such as the Caribbean Development Bank and the Central American Bank for Economic Integration.

Kim said he believes that establishing overseas networks via financial cooperation in foreign countries is important for Korea’s financial competitiveness.
Kim Yong-hwan, Export-Import Bank of Korea chairman and president. (Ahn Hoon/The Korea Herald)
Kim Yong-hwan, Export-Import Bank of Korea chairman and president. (Ahn Hoon/The Korea Herald)

“Aside from tie-ups between us (Seoul headquarters) and global financial service companies, it is necessary for our each overseas office to enhance cooperation with regional foreign banks there.”

The bank has four offices in South and North America ― Sao Paolo, Mexico City, Washington, D.C. and New York City.

During the interview, Kim expressed his strong willingness to change the bank’s corporate culture. “There are so many tasks for Ex-Im Bank to fulfill,” he said.

He, who had served for the financial authorities, compared the apparent difference between staffers of the Financial Supervisory Service and the state-owned bank.

“I’ve found our bankers are too polite though they are well-skilled with pride,” he said. “I hope they will be more active to make the bank a global player.”

Born in 1952 in Boryeong, South Chungcheong Province, Kim started his career as a public official in 1980 after graduating from SungKyunKwan University.

While working at the Finance Ministry in the 1980s and 1990s, he served for the Financial Services Commission as spokesman and standing commissioner after 2000.

He was senior deputy governor of the FSS, an executive arm of the FSC, right before being appointed to the bank’s chief.

“I’ve been full of desire since taking office. I plan to request economy-related ministries and the FSC make more support for development of our bank and our enterprises.”

After participating in the IDB annual meeting and holding strategic meetings with his overseas staffers, Kim will return home on April 1.

By Kim Yon-se (kys@heraldcorp.com)
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