Bank industry workers voiced criticism over Finance Minister Choi Kyung-hwan’s remark that Korea’s bank operating hours are too short.
The controversy has showed no signs of abating since Oct. 11 when Choi, who doubles as deputy prime minister, told reporters during his Peru visit for the G20 meeting that the country’s financial industry gets overpaid despite its short operating hours, undermining the global ratings on competitiveness of Korea’s financial sector.
Typical Korean bank branches open at 9 a.m. and close at 4 p.m. But the bank industry struck back, saying actual working hours start at 7 a.m. and end after 6 p.m. at the earliest.
“We come to work no later than 7 a.m. to review financial paperwork and prepare for the regular banking operations,” an official who works at a major local bank said under condition of anonymity.
“Banks close at 4 p.m. for a strictly strategic reason, based on the demand and margin -- if opening all branches until late yielded higher profitability, they would have done so.”
Despite profit issues, some of the local major banks have operated branches with flexible or late closing hours.
KB Kookmin Bank runs 12 flexible-hour branches, some of which open on weekends or close at 7 p.m., instead of the typical 4 p.m.
NongHyup Bank operates 222 branches of nonregular operating hours, outnumbering Shinhan Bank’s 74, Woori Bank’s 54 and Industrial Bank of Korea’s 3.
Regarding Choi’s criticism that Korean banks’ closing hours are too early compared to global peers, financial industry workers said the prime minister needed to “get back to reality.”
Major Japanese banks including Mitsubishi Tokyo UFJ and Mizuho Bank operate from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., and banks in Spain close at 2:30 p.m., according to Korean financial industry sources. Most banks in India and China close at 3:30 p.m. and 4 p.m., respectively, they added. Banks in the U.S., U.K. and Germany have different operating hours in different regions.
By Chung Joo-won (email@example.com