President Park Geun-hye warned officials on Monday that she would hold anyone responsible for making reckless remarks as public servants, in an apparent gesture to reprimand the finance minister for making controversial comments on the massive data leak in the financial industry.
Finance Minister Hyun Oh-seok came under fire last week, shortly after he blamed credit card holders for not taking caution when providing their personal information.
“(I feel) regret for public servants hurting the people’s mind and generating (public) distrust from their inappropriate recent remarks,” Park said during a meeting with senior secretaries at Cheong Wa Dae. “(I will) hold anyone responsible if such things happen again,” she said, adding that officials shoulder heavier responsibilities than any other social figures.
The president didn’t mention the minister by name. But her comments were widely speculated as targeting Hyun, who also serves as vice prime minister assigned to lead the president’s three-year economic stimulus plan announced earlier this month.
Observers say that the president has given Hyun a second chance as the nation’s top economic policymaker, adding that Park’s ambitious economic drive would stumble if she decides to replace him now.
It was also seen as a move to appease growing public concerns ahead of the four-day Lunar New Year holiday that kicks off Thursday, they added.
Although the nation’s chief economic policymaker made public apologies repeatedly on Friday, the public anger stayed high. Opposition lawmakers are also demanding that he resign.
The president also ordered officials to come up with fundamental measures and conduct thorough investigations to resolve public fear and prevent the recurrence of a massive data leak. She also asked authorities to study new online identification procedures to replace the current universal method of providing resident registration numbers. The president mentioned using a driver’s license as one of the alternatives to the resident numbers that are now extensively used for commercial or financial services online.
The nation was hit by the worst-ever data theft at three local credit cards earlier this month. Personal and financial records of about 20 million bank clients have leaked from KB Kookmin, Nonghyup and Lotte.
Public fears have been running high that the stolen data may have already been taken by financial scammers. Credit card issuers have vowed to fully compensate clients for any financial losses occurred by possible data theft.
The president also called for lifting regulations in the service sector, stressing that it is a key source of quality jobs.
“Deregulation is a must to create jobs and boost domestic market demand. It is quite contradictory to expect good jobs in the industry if blocked by ideology, misunderstanding and prejudice. It will be like asking people to run with their ankles tied,” she said.
Park said she became assured that telemedicine has great market potential in domestic and foreign markets, after she met global CEOs at the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum last week. Park returned after her eight-day overseas trip to India and Switzerland on Thursday.
“CEOs of global firms (whom I met) at the forum stressed the potential of the telemedicine market and said that (Korean companies) should take the lead in the market before other companies joining in (the competition),” she said. But in order to provide a chance for Korean companies to become a leading group in the market, the government needs to lift regulatory hurdles, she added.
Late last year, the Korean government announced a plan to allow telemedicine starting from 2015. But the plan is opposed by groups of doctors and patients who believe it is a step toward privatizing the current healthcare system that is now provides universal medical services to the general public at relatively affordable costs. A major doctor’s group has threatened to launch a nationwide strike on March 3.
By Cho Chung-un (firstname.lastname@example.org)