Neither the time nor the place
The government’s appointment of Kang Myun-wook, former chief executive officer of Meritz Asset Management, as the chief investment officer of the National Pension Service remains controversial. The CIO of the country’s largest institutional investor oversees the management of over 500 trillion won ($405 billion). Korea’s seniors depend on the good performance of the office. Since the CIO has the final say in running the fund, candidates must be carefully vetted. The operation and direction of the colossal fund can shape the stock and financial market. Therefore the best investment expert must be getting this position.
Kang falls short of this bar. His expertise is in marketing, not investment. He built his career in local and foreign asset management companies. Since he ran an asset management company, he is eligible. But he lacks experience in actually managing funds. Also his company did poorly while he was the head. According to finance information provider FnGuide, Meritz Asset Management’s accumulated return rate was in the negatives, underperforming the industries’ average yield by more than 10 percentage points during the five years he ran the company.
His recruitment therefore raised many eyebrows, suspecting political influence. Kang is one year under Ahn Chong-bum, senior presidential secretary for economic affairs, and went to the same high school and university as Ahn. There have been rumors that the CIO position had already been reserved before applications were discussed. His predecessor was also suspected of being hired for his connection with former deputy prime minister for economy, Choi Kyung-hwan. This brazen way senior government officials and politicians place their people in influential positions is demoralizing since the fund’s CIO has the challenging role of sustaining reserves for the elderly amid unfavorable global market conditions. At the moment the global financial market is swept up in turmoil. This is no time to give an unqualified person the task of caring for the nation’s future.
JoongAng Ilbo, Feb. 19, Page 30