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[Newsmaker] Deputy P.M. nominee, a man of principles

Hyun Oh-seok
Hyun Oh-seok
The coming Park Geun-hye government on Sunday nominated Korea Development Institute president Hyun Oh-seok as deputy prime minister in charge of economic policy.

He will be the first deputy prime minister in five years, as the Lee Myung-bak administration scrapped the post in 2008.

When Hyun gains the National Assembly’s approval, he will take on the nation’s core economic policies by concurrently serving as deputy prime minister and finance minister.

At a news conference following the nomination, Hyun said it was necessary for the nation to contemplate how to effectively push forward “both economic recovery in the short term and GDP growth and social welfare policies in the medium and long term.”

But he clarified that it was premature to comment on his economic philosophy, stressing that he is still a candidate for the post.

The 62-year-old nominee was a key member for negotiations for the Korea-U.S. Free Trade Agreement during the Roh Moo-hyun administration and an adviser for the Group of 20 Seoul Summit during the Lee administration.

Born in Cheongju, North Chungcheong Province, Hyun mostly worked for the Finance Ministry as a public servant after graduating from Seoul National University in 1974.

Hyun, who also took on the role of financial restructuring during the 1997-98 foreign exchange crisis, has been working as chief of the state-run economic research institute KDI and as an economist at Washington, D.C.-based World Bank.

He is considered a figure who is firm in his convictions among public officials at the Finance Ministry.

As president of the KDI, he criticized the Bank of Korea for its interest rate-setting policies about a year ago.

In January 2012, Hyun said the BOK failed to catch the opportunity to raise the nation’s benchmark interest rate, reproaching the central bank’s “lukewarm attitude.”

He had claimed that the BOK pursued an expansionary policy after the global financial crisis in 2008 to supply much-needed liquidity. “But it ultimately missed the timing for a rate hike and inflation hovered above the central bank’s target.”

By Kim Yon-se (kys@heraldcorp.com)
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