중앙데일리

Finance minister in hot seat at press event

Mar 09,2010
Korean Finance Minister Yoon Jeung-hyun is adept at dealing with reporters, as he spent years in several top government seats.

He likely had to rely on that experience yesterday while fielding some probing - and embarrassing - questions about the country’s nighttime scene and male-dominated corporate culture that shocked some government officials who were present.

The incident occurred at a Finance Ministry press conference for foreign correspondents in Seoul, a regular event that aims to help journalists understand the latest issues in the Korean economy and government policies.

In a question-and-answer session during the event, Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Ramstad asked Yoon a question about the after-hours “room salon” culture prevalent in the Korean business community, where some male workers gather at upscale nighttime establishments with clients or colleagues to down alcoholic drinks alongside women who work there.

Ramstad asked whether this culture makes it more difficult for Korean women to survive and thrive in the workplace.

The reporter also asked whether the ministry - which supervises the nation’s private-sector industries - has any policies on this practice covering its officials.

Korean officials were taken aback. Yoon shot back by saying that more than half of the recently appointed public prosecutors are women.

He then added that women have more economic power at home than they do in other countries, according to the Finance Ministry spokesman Kim Young-min.

Yoon also said that the ministry has very rigid policies on such after-hours outings paid for by private companies.

“It was very inappropriate and offensive, and the questions were based on the assumption that many ministry officials are taken to such places, which is absolutely not true,” Kim said.

Ramstad said he was surprised by the response. “I just wanted to know what their policies were,” Ramstad said. “I didn’t expect simply asking questions would create such a controversy.”

Meanwhile, Yoon also cautioned during the event that Korea’s economic recovery is still too fragile to withstand higher interest rates.


By Jung Ha-won [hawon@joongang.co.kr]



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