Top financial officials to face grilling at audit
[THE INVESTOR] With parliamentary audit sessions entering full-swing, the financial circle is bracing for tough weeks ahead, especially those involved in alleged irregularities in granting an internet-only bank’s license.
During the three-week audit period, a total of 19 high-profile financial officials from supervisory organizations and state-run and commercial banks will be present at the parliament as either witnesses or testifiers, according to the parliamentary National Policy Committee.
Among them is Shim Sung-hoon, CEO of the nation’s first internet-only K bank, who has been summoned as a witness by several ruling and opposition lawmakers.
The chief banker will be grilled over the bank’s alleged failure to separate banking and commerce, as well as speculations that it allegedly received special favors in obtaining its business license.
Also involved in the suspicion is Woori Bank, a major shareholder of K bank with a 10 percent stake.
Banking laws require shareholders to have a capital adequacy ratio higher than the industry average when financial authorities granted preliminary approval for K bank in November 2015. Woori Bank’s ratio had stood at 14 percent at the time, slightly below the industry average of 14.08 percent.
Allegations were also raised that KT -- a nonfinancial company which is unqualified to operate a bank -- engaged in the management of the internet-only bank’s operations by holding a call option deal with Woori Bank and NH Investment Securities.
Kakao Bank, another internet-only bank affiliated with the nation’s most popular mobile messenger Kakao Talk, is also facing similar questions. Kakao Bank CEO Yun Ho-young will be testifying as a witness Monday, along with other financial officials.
Another key figure from commercial banks will be Ham Young-joo, CEO of Hana KEB Bank, who will be questioned on alleged irregularities in the promotion of top officials.
The suspicion is also connected to the scandal involving former President Park Geun-hye and her confidante Choi Soon-sil, as the disputed promotion is said to have been made upon Choi’s request in exchange for business benefits.
Other issues at hand include the prolonged conflict between the banking circle and securities companies on whether securities firm may adopt banks’ payment base system. Korea Federation of Banks Chairman Ha Yung-ku will be attending the audit to answer related questions.
Meanwhile, the conservative opposition is also set to close in on the Moon Jae-in administration for allegedly meddling in banks’ personnel decisions.
Rep. Kim Han-pyo of the Liberty Korea Party has called Busan Bank’s labor union chief Park Gwang-il, pledging to clarify a high-profile intervention in an appointment of BNK Financial Group.
Top officials of state-run banks -- Korea Development Bank, Korea Export-Import Bank and Industrial Bank of Korea -- will face questions on the restructuring of the nation’s struggling shipbuilding and shipping industries.
By Bae Hyun-jung/The Korea Herald (firstname.lastname@example.org)