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Eximbank chief takes office despite union protest

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Published : 2014-03-11 20:40
Updated : 2014-03-11 20:40

The new CEO of the state-run Export-Import Bank of Korea has at last managed to get through the front doors of his office to take up his disputed post.

Lee Duk-hoon was inaugurated as the head of Eximbank on Tuesday after a days-long tug-of-war with the labor union, which refused to recognize him as chief executive.

The main reason was that the union wanted a man from within the bank.

As head of a government-run institution, the CEO of Eximbank guarantees both money and status, as he or she automatically becomes one of the most important financial figures in the country. 
Lee Duk-hoon, newly appointed CEO of Korea Export-Import Bank. (Korea Exim Bank)

So far, mostly former government officials have been named to lead the bank. Lee is the first to hail from the private sector.

The union was particularly irked by Lee after he had publicly asked what was wrong with “parachute appointments,” or the fact that he was close with President Park Geun-hye.

A graduate of Sogang University, the president’s alma mater, Lee said he “loves and respects” the president, and that he was indeed “a Pro-Park man.”

Before his appointment last week, former public servants including ex-Finance Vice Minister Hur Kyung-wook were tapped for the post.

The inauguration ceremony was originally scheduled to take place last week, shortly after the appointment, but was delayed for days as labor union members staged a sit-in protest at the bank’s entrance gate.

In terms of background, Lee’s career is impeccable. He is largely recognized as a financial expert, having successfully filled various posts from researcher at the state-run Korea Development Institute to vice chairman of Woori Financial Group, CEO of Woori Bank and member of the Bank of Korea’s monetary board.

“As a state-run bank, Eximbank is to play a leading role in promoting the export competitiveness of Korean companies and boosting Korea’s economy into the ranks of developed nations,” Lee said in his inauguration speech.

For this, he pledged to focus on high-value-added strategic sectors, which would increase the overseas business capacity for Korean construction and marine engineering companies.

“We will work to reinforce economic cooperation in Northeast Asia, as well as pioneer new markets in African and South American regions,” he said.

The new CEO also underlined the importance of state-run financial organizations, especially in an age of slow growth.

“A key role of public financial organizations is to solve the macroeconomic difficulties faced by the government,” he told reporters after the ceremony.

“Korea must take another leap in order to join the ranks of developed nations.”

The government is also hoping for Eximbank to help the nation’s floundering financial sector mature. This was why he was appointed as the new chief, Lee added.

By Bae Hyun-jung (tellme@heraldcorp.com)

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