Emigrants turn their backs on Korea
The Washington Post reported that Stanley Fischer, former deputy managing director of the International Monetary Fund, is a likely candidate to succeed Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke as his tenure ends next January. Koreans are familiar with Fischer as he was in charge of the rescue package for Korea after the 1997 currency crisis.
Fisher has a very unique personal background. He was born in Zambia, and his family immigrated to the United States when he was 17. Later, he became a naturalized U.S. citizen. He served as a professor at the MIT Sloan School of Management and was the first deputy managing director of the International Monetary Fund. In 2005, the Israeli government entrusted him with the job of governor of the Bank of Israel. Naturally, he obtained Israeli citizenship. Under Fischer’s leadership, Israel overcame the 2008 financial crisis. Now, Washington wants to bring him back and have him oversee the Federal Reserve. And I have never heard any controversy over Fischer’s nationality.
Lately, Korean-Americans are having heated discussions about Kim Jeong-hun, the appointee for minister of future planning and science. The discussion usually begins with his success story and ends in frustration. Some say, “If I were him, I would not want to become a minister. I’d rather live comfortably with my money than go back to Korea and get criticized about qualifications.”
Investigation of ministerial candidates is a necessary and justifiable procedure, and the standard has to be strict and future-oriented. But a remark by the mayor of Seoul, Park Won-soon, is particularly relevant in this instance. “We shouldn’t give up because of minor flaws,” he said. “If a foreign citizen is outstanding, he should be able to work freely in Korea, and this applies to Kim Jeong-hun and others as well.” He is insightful, indeed.
Some are worried about Kim’s relationship with the CIA in the United States, but concerns are based more on speculation than facts. Kim never hid his relationships with former CIA directors James Woolsey and George Tenet. He received his doctorate on the reliability of satellite systems in 1991, and the CIA reportedly needed his expertise in communications. He must have been involved in projects related to the national security of the United States. Those with concerns use the phrase “CIA connection,” practically treating Kim like a spy. But if he works for the new Korean government, the CIA has more to worry about.
Another regrettable part of the Kim Jeong-hun controversy is Park Geun-hye’s response. She should have provided explanations for her choice from the start when she announced the appointment. Her transition team has announced 140 administrative objectives, and many of them are to be handled by the proposed Ministry of Future Planning and Science, including how to become an information communications power. But the appointee for the post is being criticized all alone, without Park’s support. In the meantime, other talented and successful Koreans with foreign citizenship are turning their backs on cold-hearted Korea.
*The author is the JoongAng Ilbo Washington bureau chief.
by Park Seung-hee