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[Newsmaker] New Woori chief criticizes his predecessor

Lee Soon-woo, the new chairman of Woori Financial Group, has expressed discontent over the business policies of his predecessor Lee Pal-seung, who was a college classmate of former President Lee Myung-bak.

The incumbent chairman, who stepped to the helm last week, was quoted by an online news provider as saying that Woori Financial tackled sale projects for the state-funded group led by financial authorities during the former chief’s term between June 2008 and June 2013.

Lee stressed that it is inappropriate for him or the group to comment on sale plans set by the Public Fund Oversight Committee. “(Privatization) ultimately failed due to the practice (of needless policy commentary) in past years.”
Lee Soon-woo. ( Yonhap News)
Lee Soon-woo. ( Yonhap News)

Former chairman Lee recently expressed a contradictory stance. While he had continued to pledge to push forward the privatization of the group, he said with uneasiness in his farewell speech last Friday that the Park Geun-hye administration is focusing on only the “fast recoup” of taxpayers’ money.

The former chief was a close confidant of former President Lee. During his tenure as the Woori chairman, incumbent chairman Lee Soon-woo was the CEO of the group’s flagship Woori Bank.

According to the incumbent chief’s remarks, Woori Financial is expected to take a cordial and cooperative position toward updated sale plans from financial authorities such as the Public Fund Oversight Committee and the Financial Services Commission.

Lee also told the news provider that he would not tolerate any irregular request from outside for a job position in the group.

Meanwhile, the FSC has tilted toward a split-based sale of Woori Financial units, under which two provincial lenders ― Kyongnam Bank and Kwangju Bank ― will be sold separately from the main subsidiaries.

The key issue is the sale project for the group’s two most competitive units, Woori Bank and Woori Investment & Securities.

The group’s credit card and insurance units may be sold as a bonus to acquirers of the bank or stock brokerage units, according to market insiders.

The FSC is scheduled to unveil detailed measures to sell the nation’s largest financial services firm with assets of more than 400 trillion won next Wednesday.

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