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Banking circles grapple over new chief selection




South Korea’s banking industry on Tuesday sorted out seven candidates for the Korea Federation of Banks’ next chairmanship, set to make the final choice as early as Monday.

In an apparent response to criticism that the bankers’ association is under excessive bureaucratic influence, the latest list included several figures from the private sector -- incumbent or former chiefs of commercial banks.

The KFB board of directors met in a closed-door breakfast meeting early in the morning to figure out the long list of potential figures, ahead of the final pick slated for next week.

The seven names were: NH Financial Group Chairman Kim Kwang-soo, former Hana Financial Group Vice Chairman Kim Byung-ho, former KB Kookmin Bank CEO Min Byung-duk, former parliamentary National Policy Committee Chairman Min Byung-doo, former Shinhan Financial Group CEO Shin Sang-hoon, former NH NongHyup Bank CEO Lee Dae-hoon and Korea Housing Finance Corporation CEO Lee Jung-hwan.

Choi Jong-ku, former chairman of the regulatory Financial Services Commission, had previously been deemed a plausible choice, but Choi declined to be named.

With Choi out of the picture, speculations have mounted that the federation may for once lean toward a banking expert in the private sector instead of former government officials.

The dilemma is that despite growing public dissent over former ranking public servants monopolizing influential financial posts, demand equally exists for a KFB head apt at cutting deals with policymakers -- especially in light of ongoing hedge fund scams.

“The KFB chairman post carries much weight as the person in charge should skillfully bridge the banking circles and the government,” said an industry official.

“But considering the negative public opinion (over the excessive bureaucratic rule in the financial circles), the KFB is likely to grapple until the last minute.”

Among the long list of figures, NH chief Kim is seen as having an upper hand with experience as a financial service director at the FSC and presidential secretary during the former Roh Moo-hyun administration.

Meanwhile, as incumbent chief Kim Tae-young’s term is due to end on Nov. 30, some board members were said to have called for a reappointment, but Kim also turned down the offer.

“I have asked to be taken off the list,” Kim told reporters, adding that he will faithfully complete his given term.

The board is anticipated to make the final pick at its next meeting, slated for Monday, but may also postpone the decision until later in the week in case of a neck-and-neck race, according to officials.

The board-selected final candidate requires the approval at the KFB general meeting in order to take office.

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