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Woori Bank chief resigns amid recruiting scandal

Woori Bank CEO Lee Kwang-goo resigned Thursday, amid accusations that the bank offered special favors to children of high-profile officials and VIP clients in last year’s open recruitment.

“As chief executive of Woori Bank, I offer my sincere apology to the people and to our clients for causing controversies related to the 2016 open recruitment,” Lee said in an email to employees.

Woori Bank CEO Lee Kwang-goo
Woori Bank CEO Lee Kwang-goo
“Bearing the responsibility, I have notified the directorate of my intention to resign and requested that the board members promptly select a successor.”

Lee, however, will hold his official title until his successor takes office, according to the commercial law clause to prevent managerial vacuums.

The bank recently came under fire for allegedly hiring 16 children or family members of senior officials of the National Intelligence Service, Financial Supervisory Service, and VIP clients.

The pressure mounted further as Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Kim Dong-yeon held an urgent ministerial meeting last week, vowing to curb all recruiting irregularities.

Lee’s leadership has often been subject of dispute, especially when he first took office as Woori Bank’s chief in 2014 when the government still held some of the bank’s shares. Due to his close affiliation with the financial circle of Sogang alumni -- the alma mater of then-President Park Geun-hye -- many suspected that the Park administration had pulled strings in Lee’s appointment.

(Woori Bank)
(Woori Bank)
The personnel dispute seemed to die down as the bank had performed well under Lee in the past few years. Woori Bank recorded 1.4 trillion ($1.2 billion) in net profit for the third quarter this year, up 24.7 percent from the same period last year.

Lee also completed the bank’s long-pending task of selling off its government-controlled stakes and to regain private management, before moving onto restructuring as a holding company.

Gesturing to add momentum on the next move, the chief recently pledged to complete the conversion to a holding company system within his current re-elected term, which was to end in early 2019.

“I hope that the incoming chief will successfully covert (the bank) to a holding company system and make sure that Woori Bank continues to contribute to the nation’s economic growth,” the outgoing bank chief said.

By Bae Hyun-jung