Moon names BOK chief, incoming team 'not consulted'
And although the Blue House said it consulted President-elect Yoon Suk-yeol, Yoon's spokesperson said his transition team had "not consulted with the Blue House or made any recommendations" on the Bank of Korea (BOK) chief appointment.
Park Soo-hyun, senior presidential secretary for public communication, announced at noon Wednesday that Rhee Chang-yong, director of the Asia and Pacific Department at the International Monetary Fund (IMF), was named by Moon the next BOK governor. He was to replace Lee Ju-yeol, whose term finishes at the end of this month.
Park said in a briefing, "As an expert in economics and finance, [Rhee] combines theory and policy implementation in the fields of domestic and international economics and finance and monetary policy and has gained strong confidence from those around him."
Rhee has been a chief economist at the Asian Development Bank, a vice chief of the Financial Services Commission and an economics professor at Seoul National University. He also served as secretary general of the presidential committee for the 2010 G20 Seoul Summit and as a frequent policy adviser to the Korean government.
Rhee earned an undergraduate degree in economics from Seoul National University and a doctorate from Harvard University.
At the IMF, he was in charge of overseeing lending operations and bilateral and multilateral surveillance of economies in the region, including China, Japan, India and the Pacific Islands.
Park said that "based on his abundant knowledge and experience in economics and finance and his global network, [Rhee] is expected to contribute to the stabilization of prices and financial markets through effective and stable monetary and credit policies that respond to domestic and foreign economic and financial situations."
Rhee will have to be approved by the Cabinet and undergo a parliamentary confirmation hearing.
The BOK governor serves a four-year term. Incumbent BOK chief Lee, who was appointed by former President Park Geun-hye in 2014 and has served two consecutive terms, will leave the post on March 31. Moon's five-year term ends on May 9.
Moon and Yoon have been butting heads over who has the authority to make personnel appointments to public institutions.
Despite expectations that Moon and Yoon would reschedule a first meeting after a luncheon was canceled last week, the two sides have yet to do so.
It appeared the Blue House was offering an olive branch by naming a BOK candidate who has also been favored by Yoon's side.
A high-ranking Blue House official told reporters on the appointment Wednesday, "In order to minimize a vacancy in the BOK governor position, the nominee was announced after hearing the opinions of the president-elect's side."
The official added that Rhee's "political neutrality" was guaranteed based on his previous official posts and added, "Regardless of which administration is in office, the [BOK governor's] term in office was scheduled to expire on March 31, so the appointment of a successor in advance was necessary."
Moon repeated the position earlier that day that a meeting with the president-elect "could be held at any time and without conditions," said the official.
Yoon's spokesperson shortly afterwards refuted the Blue House position through a statement to reporters saying that they had not been consulted on the BOK chief appointment, signaling that differences remained.
While Yoon's side indicated they may have no problem with Rhee as a candidate, the president-elect's chief of staff, Chang Je-won, told reporters that they were only unilaterally informed just before the appointment was announced.
A senior Blue House official, however, said that Yoon's side had previously approved Rhee as BOK chief, and expressed "dismay" at the transition team's denial.
Besides the BOK chief position, senior posts on the Board of Audit and Inspection's audit committee and National Election Commission will be open soon.
Yoon's side has also been pushing for a special pardon for former President Lee Myung-bak, who has been serving a 17-year sentence for embezzlement and bribery since 2018.
The two sides are also not seeing eye-to-eye on Yoon's plans to relocate the presidential office to the Defense Ministry in Yongsan District in central Seoul, which is becoming a major source of contention between the incumbent and incoming administrations.
In a National Security Council meeting Monday, Moon expressed concern that a possible security vacuum could result from Yoon's plans to relocate the presidential office.
The Blue House has stopped short of opposing a presidential office move, however, Cabinet approval is needed to fund the relocation plan.
The president-elect's transition team said Tuesday it will not move into the Blue House May 10, and, if necessary, Yoon may start his new term at his transition office in Tongui-dong, central Seoul. This option puts security particularly into question, as the building has many large windows that have not been fortified. The building is not large enough to accommodate all the presidential personnel.
While political observers point out that it would be better for Moon and Yoon to meet earlier than later to try to resolve their differences, some worry that the friction between the incoming and outgoing power is just beginning.
Main opposition People Power Party (PPP) Rep. Kweon Seong-dong, Yoon's close confidant and a fourth-term lawmaker, told CBS radio Wednesday, "If an agreement cannot be reached on important matters, there is no reason and no need for [President Moon and President-elect Yoon] to meet."
Yoon likewise told reporters Wednesday at his Tongui-dong office, "I'm not sure," when asked when he'll be meeting with Moon.
His transition team said Yoon's inauguration ceremony will take place in the plaza in front of the National Assembly in Yeouido, western Seoul, as according to tradition.
BY SARAH KIM [firstname.lastname@example.org]