The Korea Herald


BOK head's misleading gaffe confuses market watchers

By 윤민식

Published : Nov. 15, 2013 - 10:53

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The head of South Korea's central bank made a misleading gaffe earlier this week concerning the country's trade with the United States, sparking concerns over his capacity to lead.

Bank of Korea (BOK) Gov. Kim Choong-soo said in a meeting with reporters Thursday that South Korea's current account surplus is mainly attributable to shipments heading to emerging markets, adding the country logged an account deficit with the U.S. over the recent period.

The blunder confused market watchers as the U.S. has been one of the major contributors to the country's positive account balance. South Korea has posted a trade surplus with the No. 1 economy since the government started compiling such data in 1998.

South Korea posted a current account surplus of $12.6 billion in transactions with the U.S. last year, marking a 13.5 percent rise from $11.1 billion tallied a year earlier.

Asia's fourth-largest economy also posted a trade surplus of $15.4 billion through September this year in deals with the U.S., up 40 percent from a year earlier making it unlikely for South Korea to post a deficit for such transactions in 2013.

"The governor intended to point out that trade with advanced economies, which include the United States, Japan and the eurozone countries, logged a deficit," an official from the bank explained.

The misleading remark, however, sparked rumors among the bank staff that the 66-year-old Kim may have become too old, as South Korea's current account surplus with the U.S. is considered as general knowledge for market watchers.

Kim has long been considered a whiz in the country's economic realm, with a popular story that he memorized his staff's license plate numbers when he headed the Korea Development Institute, South Korea's state-run think tank.

Kim is also considered one of "the three geniuses from Kyunggi High School" in South Korea, along with former Prime Minister Chung Un-chan and former maritime minister Chang Seung-woo. (Yonhap News)