Pre-unification policies dominate economic forum

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Pre-unification policies dominate economic forum

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Financial Services Commission Chairman Shin Je-yoon speaks about financial policies to prepare for unification yesterday at the 2014 Korea Economic Forum sponsored by the Korea JoongAng Daily. By Park Sang-moon

About 150 diplomats, business leaders and financial institution executives gathered in the Orchid Room at the Westin Chosun Hotel in Sogong-dong, central Seoul, yesterday for the 2014 Korea Economic Forum hosted by Korea JoongAng Daily.

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.

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Bankers, private investors, corporate officials and dignitaries from the diplomatic community give a round of applause to FSC Chairman Shin Je-yoon after his keynote address on financial preparations for unification at the Korea JoongAng Daily’s annual economic forum.

Shin spoke on “Financial Policy Directions Toward Future Unification of the Two Koreas,” saying it will be one of the policy themes of President Park’s second year in office.

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.

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FSC Shin Je-yoon, center, talks with heads of financial groups at the forum yesterday. From left, Lee Soon-woo, Woori Financial Group chairman; Lim Young-rok, KB Financial Group chairman; Kim Jung-tai, Hana Financial Group chairman; and Yim Jong-yong, NH Financial Group chairman.

“It [the keynote speech] was very clear,” said Mafael, the German ambassador. “It is the first time I have heard [about financial policy preparations ahead of South-Korea reunification]. The chairman gave clear ideas about the direction in which he is thinking.”

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.

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Many ambassadors were in attendance at yesterday´s forum. Afterward they gathered for a group photo. Top row, left to right: Ambassador of Jordan Omar Al-Nahar, Ambassador of Belarus Natallia Zhylevich, Ambassador of Colombia Tito Saul Pinilla, Ambassador of Switzerland Jorg Al. Reding, Ambassador of Sweden Lars Danielsson, Ambassador of Uzbekistan Alisher Anvarovich Kurmanov, Ambassador of Italy Sergio Mercuri, Ambassador of Costa Rica Manuel Lopez Trigo, JTBC President Kim Su-gil, Ambassador of Canada David Chatterson and Korea JoongAng Daily Executive Editor Ryu Kwon-ha. Bottom row, left to right: Ambassador of Australia William Paterson, Ambassador of Israel Uri Gutman, Ambassador of Germany Rolf Mafael, Korea JoongAng Daily Publisher Cholsoo Charles Lho, Ambassador of France Jerome Pasquier, Ambassador of Indonesia John A. Prasetio, Ambassador of Ireland Aingeal O´Donoghue, Ambassador of the Dominican Republic Grecia Pichardo and Ambassador of Malaysia Dato´ Rohana Ramli. By Park

“Actually, I think it will be possible to face sudden change from North Korea if there’s an attempt for sudden opening of [its market],” he said after the event.

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 [jiyoon.kim@joongang.co.kr]


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