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Finance minister nominee grilled over economic values

At a parliamentary hearing Wednesday, Kim Dong-yeon, nominee for deputy prime minister and finance minister, was under intense scrutiny over his stance that opposition lawmakers claimed would clash with the Moon Jae-in administration’s push for stronger welfare and income-led economic growth.

The nominee, who mostly responded with theoretical answers, had served the former conservative Lee Myung-bak administration. He was presidential secretary for economy and finance from 2008-2009, the Finance Ministry’s budget bureau chief from 2010-2012 and second vice finance minister from 2012-2013. 
Kim Dong-yeon, nominee for deputy prime minister and finance minister (Yonhap)
Kim Dong-yeon, nominee for deputy prime minister and finance minister (Yonhap)

Rep. Choung Byoung-guk of the conservative Bareun Party questioned whether Kim would be able to reconcile differences between a stance he had adopted in 2012 as vice finance minister and the current administration’s plan to spend the central government’s budget on child care programs.

“When you were vice finance minister in 2012, you called the government’s paying for child care programs ‘excessive welfare’ and said the budget for such programs should be spent by the (metropolitan and provincial) offices of education,” Choung said.

Kim replied that he would carefully review how child care programs should be financed by considering fiscal conditions and reaching a consensus with the National Assembly.

“Judging from your answer, you haven’t set your stance clearly. You will have conflicts with the Moon administration in every single issue,” Choung said.

Lawmaker Yoo Seung-min of the same party also asked whether Kim shared the same views with the Moon government, which is pushing for income-led economic growth and the creation of 810,000 jobs in the public sector.

Kim had been an advocate for innovation-led economic growth, emphasizing structural reforms and stronger productivity in the economy. At the hearing, he took both sides.

“Income-led growth is important from the demand side -- raising income and wage growth. But from the supply side, innovation is also necessary. I ultimately believe we should pursue a sustainable economy with a human-centered approach,” Kim said.

Rep. Park Myung-jae of the main opposition Liberty Korea Party asked how Kim would come up with measures to ease the burden on small and medium sized companies and self-employed people if President Moon pushes to increase the minimum wage by 15.7 percent annually for the next three years.

Moon has vowed to raise the hourly minimum wage to 10,000 won ($8.90) before his five-year term ends in May 2022.

“I will try to balance the two -- the need for the minimum wage increase and the burden on the self-employed,” Kim said.

As for real estate policy, he said he would not consider enhancing the comprehensive real estate holding tax, which was first adopted during the former Roh Moo-hyun administration to curb real estate speculation.

Meanwhile, Kim flatly denied allegations that he had distorted his eyesight records during a conscription examination in 1977 to avoid active duty in the military service and serve reserve duty instead.

As for suspicions that he avoided inheritance tax by borrowing millions of won from his mother, Kim said the borrowed money was “to give her regular allowances.”

By Kim Yoon-mi (