Pre-unification policies dominate economic forum
Shin Je-yoon, chairman of the Financial Services Commission, delivered a keynote speech on the overall financial policy approach the government should take in advance of possible reunification, which he said was the first time the subject has been raised in this administration.
Among the 137 people in attendance were Kim Su-gil, CEO of JTBC; Cholsoo Charles Lho, publisher of the Korea JoongAng Daily; Rolf Mafael, German ambassador to Korea; Jeong Sang-kee, vice president and CEO of Mirae Asset Global Investments; Dato’ Rohana Ramli, Malaysian ambassador to Korea; Amy Jackson, president of the American Chamber of Commerce in Korea; and Lee Soon-woo, chairman and CEO of Woori Financial Group.
In his opening remarks, Lho cited Park administration initiatives such as public sector reform and deregulation to promote a market economy.
The speech was delivered in English and was followed by a question and answer session, with Shin also responding in English.
It is considered unusual for a government official to speak in English without a prepared script. This drew attention from foreign attendees at the event, who complimented Shin on his confidence and comfortable attitude.
Also, instead of reading from a script behind the podium, Shin moved around the stage, maximizing his contact with the audience, many of whom nodded while taking notes.
In his speech and the Q&A session, Shin referenced the financial reunification of Germany.
“I think that [reunification of the two Koreas] might not happen very suddenly like Germany, when looking at the political actions that the North takes,” said Hannes Bublitz, junior economist at the Korean-German Chamber of Commerce and Industry. “So comparing the unification model with Germany’s case may not be that correct, because Germany’s unification process started all of the sudden when the whole Soviet system and the Eastern Bloc just collapsed. It is a whole different background from the situation here in Korea.”
Christian Leweling, PR manager at the Korean-German Chamber of Commerce and Industry, expressed a slightly different view.
Leweling echoed Shin’s view that South Korea should prepare as many financial policy scenarios as possible, because predicting North Korea’s future steps will be impossible.
He emphasized that Shin was right in raising the need to start preparing for reunification before the possibility actually arises.
“In the German case, the [unification] cost was just so expensive. It would be quite difficult for South Korea to carry all the cost. West Germany was much bigger than South Korea, while the economic gap between the East and West was much smaller,” he added.
Siavosh Moussavi, chief executive of GE Healthcare, said that as a foreign business executive in Korea, he found the speech very informative.
“It was a topic of common interest for embassies and multinational corporations,” he said. “Unification would expand the market and create business opportunities. There is no doubt about it, it’s a big issue. We can’t do business without legislation and regulation [with North Korea]. In the long term, we would like to expand business to North Korea when the infrastructure is settled. Such an effort will be a continuation of what we’re doing with existing businesses.”
BY kim ji-yoon [firstname.lastname@example.org]