Advisers differ in style, not substance
Park Geun-hye’s economic team has taken shape with the appointment of Hyun Oh-seok, president of the Korea Development Institute, as deputy prime minister for economics and the choice of Cho Won-dong, president of the state-run Korea Institute of Public Finance, as senior secretary for economic affairs.
The two presidential economic secretaries from the Economic Planning Board will steer Geun-hye-nomics and key the development of economic policies for the next government, and they have a lot in common.
Both are from Chungcheong and graduated from Kyunggi High School and Seoul National University. Hyun was born in Cheongju, North Chungcheong, and Cho was born in Nonsan, South Chungcheong.
As economic and financial authorities, they have walked similar paths, starting at the Economic Policy Bureau, toward an expertise in macroeconomic policy.
During 1999, when Lee Kyu-sung was finance minister, they served as director and deputy director general at the bureau, though their terms overlapped for just two months.
The two reportedly still encounter each other often through meetings of the heads of national research and development institutes and the policy bureau.
In addition to serving as president of the Korea Development Institute, Hyun was dean of the KDI School of Public Policy, where Cho was a visiting professor.
“The two still frequently interact with one another by occasionally having dinner,” said Kim Joo-hoon, vice president of KDI. “As they already know each other well, the two will be a good combination working for the government’s economic team in harmony.”
Officials of the Ministry of Finance, who have watched them closely, also had positive things to say.
Joo Hyung-hwan, assistant secretary of the Ministry of Strategy and Finance, cited both nominees as rational officials who are very familiar with each other.
Choi Jong-ku, deputy minister for international economic affairs at the Finance Ministry, also expected smooth communication between the two.
For all their common threads, Hyun and Cho differ in the ways they approach work. If Hyun points out and analyzes a phenomenon, Cho makes a definite diagnosis.
While Hyun employs a “how-to-do” academic style process, the bureaucratic Cho stresses “what to do.”
“When asked about the financial crisis in the United States for instance, Hyun says a variety of data must be taken into consideration, while Cho says that since there is no plausible solution, the outlook is negative,” said a former vice minister of strategy and finance.
Because the straight-talking Cho is known to be performance-oriented and tends to do whatever is necessary to achieve a goal, many expect the new senior secretary for economic affairs to wield significant influence on the new government’s economic team.
Cho was even tapped as Choeng Wa Dae administrator by Kang Bong-kyun, former senior presidential secretary for economic affairs for former President Kim Dae-jung.
During the Roh Moo-hyun administration, Cho served as director of economic policy for 19 months, gaining the confidence of the former deputy prime ministers Han Duck-soo and Kwon O-kyu.
Cho broadened his experience during the Lee Myung-bak administration, when he was deputy minister for administration affairs and deputy secretary general under Chung Un-chan, former prime minister.
After becoming the head of the Korea Institute of Public Finance, he researched taxation and finance and quickly proposed related policies.
Such experiences could be a complement to Hyun, observers say.
Although Hyun continued to work in the field of economic policy after leaving public office, he is not as experienced as Cho in terms of administration.
However, at least for the initial economic direction of the Park Geun-hye government, they will likely speak with one voice.
Observers expect that both growth theorists from the Economic Policy Bureau will stay in step when it comes to macroeconomic policymaking.
For the new government, the rise of the bureaucracy from the policy bureau is in stark contrast to Lee Myung-bak administration finance ministers Kang Man-soo, Yoon Jeung-hyun and Bahk Jae-wan, all of whom came from the Ministry of Finance.
By Kim Dong-ho [email@example.com]