Rhee Chang-yong, director of the Asia and Pacific department at the International Monetary Fund (Yonhap)
Rhee’s appointment follows an apparent week-long power struggle between the outgoing Moon and incoming Yoon administrations over the appointment of key personnel. That had raised fears that the Bank of Korea would face a leadership vacuum for the first time in history after current chief Lee Ju-yeol left on March 31.
A presidential official from Cheong Wa Dae told reporters on condition of anonymity on Wednesday that prior consultation with Yoon was held for Rhee’s nomination to resolve issues related to the BOK leadership’s possible absence.
However, Yoon’s office refuted the claims, saying the president-elect had yet to nominate his administration’s nominee for the job, casting a cloud over Rhee’s nomination.
When appointing Rhee, President Moon’s Principal Secretary for Public Communications, Park Soo-hyun, said he was sought out for his experience and knowledge in monetary and financial matters, as well as the confidence he he had won with his colleagues. Park also mentioned his strong global network, which should help him help stabilize inflation and the broader financial market through the implementation of monetary policies aligned with the global economy.
The 61-year-old candidate became director of the IMF’s Asia and Pacific department in 2013 after serving for two years as chief economist at the Asian Development Bank.
He previously served as vice-head of the G20 Readiness Committee, vice-head of the Financial Services Commission and professor of economics at Seoul National University before becoming chief economist of the AfDB.
Rhee holds a bachelor’s degree in economics from Seoul National University. He held many private positions as an economic adviser after obtaining a doctorate. in economics from Harvard University in 1989.
Tension between Moon and Yoon grew as the two sides failed to bridge their differences on issues besides key nominations. These issues include the pardon of imprisoned former President Lee Myung-bak and the relocation of the presidential office to the main Defense Ministry building in central Seoul.
A planned meeting between the two was canceled last week, breaking the tradition of the incumbent president greeting elected officials within 10 days of the election. Yoon was elected on March 9.
By Jung Min-kyung ([email protected])