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Woori Bank’s No. 2 man tapped as new head

Woori Finance Holdings Co., Korea’s No. 2 banking group, said Tuesday it picked Lee Soon-woo, executive vice president of Woori Bank, as the new chief executive officer of the group’s flagship banking unit.

The state-run financial services company said its seven-member special president selection committee selected Lee Soon-woo, 61, to lead Korea’s second-largest lender for three years.

Woori Bank is currently headed by Lee Chong-hwi, whose three-year term ends in late March.

The selection comes after incumbent group chairman Lee Pal-seung was named to be at the helm for another three years in an effort to help accelerate the stalled privatization of the state-run banking group.

“The group will lay out a big picture for privatization. But as Woori Bank is the group’s flagship unit, I think the bank should be at the forefront in pushing for the privatization,” Lee Soon-woo told reporters after being nominated.
Lee Soon-woo addresses a news conference Tuesday after he was nominated as the new chief executive officer of Woori Bank. (Ahn Hoon/The Korea Herald)
Lee Soon-woo addresses a news conference Tuesday after he was nominated as the new chief executive officer of Woori Bank. (Ahn Hoon/The Korea Herald)

The president-nominee added that he will make efforts to lead the bank to play a leading role in the process of an expected bank takeover wave.

Market watchers said the comeback of former Finance Minister Kang Man-soo as the new chief of Korea Development Bank is likely to rekindle debate over creating so-called mega financial firms and swirl the banking sector in a wave of takeovers.

The idea of combining three state-owned financial institutions ― KDB, Woori Finance and the Industrial Bank of Korea ― first came up in early 2008 as a way of privatizing them. But the government ditched the plan as the global financial storm made it impossible to pursue a bank sale.

Shareholders are scheduled to meet on Thursday to give the final nod to the nomination of the new CEO.

The group also nominated Song Ki-jin, the current president of Kwangju Bank, to lead the regional bank unit for another term and Park Young-been, acting president of Kyongnam Bank, as the regional lender’s head.

The nominations are subject to approval from shareholders’ meetings on Thursday and Wednesday, respectively.

“The bank president selection committee selected the final president candidates through a fair and transparent process,” Woori Finance said in a statement. 

(Yonhap News)
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