Korea’s top economic policy-maker hails from a slum shack in Seoul
Korea’s top economic policy-maker hails from a slum shack in Seoul
  • Sean Kim
  • 승인 2017.07.25 10:52
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Deputy Prime Minister/Minister of Planning and Finance Kim Dong-yeon

A popular Korean-language newspaper recently called Deputy Prime Minister/Minister of Planning and Finance Kim Dong-yeon ‘a man born with an earthen spoon in the mouth.’ It meant that Kim was born to a very poor family, worked hard and made his way to the high position in the government he now has. Many Koreans call the position ‘the main control tower of the economic policies of the Korean government.’

Kim spent his youthful years living in a slum district in Seoul named Panjacheon (literally, a village of houses built with wood boards from spent boxes).

Finance Minister nominee Kim Dong-yeon

Many Koreans in and out of the government said it was a job well done by President Moon Jae-in because DPM Kim has been a long-needed man to set strait things that had been ‘screwed up’ by the preceding governments of Presidents Park Geun-hye and Lee Myung-bak.

Many people expect very much from DPM Kim as he is considered a right person who can mend many things that had been done wrong during the preceding two governments, which many Koreans feel made the rich richer and the poor poorer.

However, the new government of President Moon, too, recently come under fire from the conservative media because some of the extremely reform-minded lieutenants in his camp posed tackles against DPM Kim on various new policies of the government.

Popular Korean-language daily, JoongAng Ilbo, recently said the ruling Minju Party and Cheong Wa Dae (Office of the President) have put DPM Kim in an awkward position by expediting tax hikes on the businesses. They had agreed to postpone the business tax increases until after the local elections are over next year.

This view, shared by many Korean-language business dailies and the conservative-oriented newspapers, is regarded by the common people as being in favor those who have money.

President Moon, on his part, is in a position where he finds little reason to say no to the tax increase move initiated and pushed by Madam Choo Mi-ae who heads the ruling Minjoo Party formerly led by President Moon.

“I am seeking tax increases only on a very limited number of people, the top super-rich’ ones who are making exorbitant amount of money,” said Madam Choo introducing the special tax hike bill.

In fact, according to reports, the idea of taxing the ‘super-rich people’ came from Minister Kim Boo-kyum of Government Administration and Home Affairs.

Needless to say, the idea of levying a little more tax from ‘a few top super-rich’ people is welcome news among the majority of people in Korea where most people eke out a scanty living--earning a little more than US$1,000 a month.

Gist of the tax hikes for the super big businesses and top super-rich people is imposition of a 25% percent corporate tax on the top big companies who make 200 billion won a year and a 42% tax on the super-high income earners who make more than 500 million won a year, 2% higher than the current rate of 40%. The super-high income people include owners and other big stock holders of the jaebeol businesses and big asset owners.

The majority of the people in Korea naturally show an affirmative response to the new move as it contributes to the fair distribution of the fruits of economic development and growth attained by all the people.

While DPM Kim was the president of the Azou University, he is known to have provided the students from poor families with scholarships enabling them to join the overseas educational programs which are normally regardeda as a system that is afforded only by students who can foot the cost. DPM Kim is known to have had his university education at night school.

Politician in the liberal Minjoo Party Choo Mi-ae

Here is his resume:

Resume of Deputy Prime Minister Kim Dong-yeon:

At the age of 25, Kim passed the Civil Servants Administration examination and joined the Economic Planning Board, a budget planning body of the government under the Prime Minister‘s Office which later was absorbed into the Finance Ministry.

Kim spent years drawing up fiscal policies and budget planning at the ministry. He was named the Presidential Secretary for Economy and Finance during the Lee Myung-bak Government.

In 2013, Kim was appointed as Minister of Policy Coordination, an organization affiliated to the Prime Minister’s Office. A year later, he stepped down from the post, saying that he had to take care of his family.

DPM Kim is from Eumseong, Chungcheongbuk-do Province, and graduated from Michigan University with a Ph.D. in policy studies.

Previously, Kim also served as the Director General in the Ministry of Planning and Budget, Korea’s central budget and planning authority, where he headed the Industrial and Economic Sector Budgeting Bureau in the Budget Office.

He previously headed the Strategic Planning Bureau in the Ministry and also served in the World Bank as a Senior Public Sector Specialist and project manager. During his more than 20 years in the Korean government, Dr. Kim served in key economic and policy-related positions mainly in the Ministry of Planning and Budget, Ministry of Finance and Economy and the Economic Planning Board.

He also worked at the Office of the President, including as the Chief Coordinator to the Chief of Staff to the President. During his services in the Korean government and the World Bank, Dr. Kim published various papers and policy reports on an extensive range of topics including top-down budgeting, medium-term expenditure framework and performance management.

Kim earned his LL.B. from Kookje University in Seoul, M.A. in Public Administration from Seoul National University, M.A. and Ph.D. in Public Policy from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor under the Fulbright Scholarship. He was also a Fulbright Visiting Scholar at SAIS and occasionally lectures on public policy-making and budgetary politics at graduate schools in Seoul.

According to reports from Ajou University, Kim is known as a preacher of “Pleasant Innovations.” He says that innovation is the expression of a strong determination to overcome and change the current reality, and he stresses that there should be sound innovations of our environment, ourselves, and our society.

According to him, everything is “pleasant” when people do it because they like to, instead of being directed by others. He enjoys communicating this message with young people.

This belief is represented in his life and his service as a public official. As the press put it, “He did not have three things in life--money, education, and a human network, but he did have three things--dreams, enthusiasm, and the willingness and action to change society.”

Due to the financial difficulties of his family, Kim spent his school years in Panjachon (a woodboard shack) near the Cheonggye Stream in Seoul and then in a tent after even the shack was torn down in a ‘city development program.’

Due to financial hardship, after entering Deoksu Commercial High School, he was forced to leave before graduation as he had to begin working at a company. He attended Kukje College at night after work, and in the year of his graduation, he passed both the Higher Administrative Officials Recruitment Test and the Higher Legislative Officials Recruitment Test, becoming known as ‘a legendary high-school graduate.’

His self-innovation and bold acceptance of academic challenges did not stop after that: he obtained his master’s degree from the Graduate School of Public Administration at Seoul National University and then received master and doctoral degrees in Policy Studies from the University of Michigan thanks to a scholarship from the Korean Government and a U.S. government Fulbright Scholarship.

The Minister of Government Administration and Home Affairs Kim Boo-kyum

Since beginning his public service as an officer at the Economic Planning Board, President Kim has strived to bring sound innovation to our society with the philosophy of “contributing to social change.” He considers himself as a scholar majoring in policy-making theory, doing his utmost to be involved in the real world’s policy making and implementation to address our economic and social issues. He led the development of “Vision 2030,” the first long-term national development strategy of the Korean government, and contributed to overcoming the economic crisis during the Global Financial Crisis as the Secretary to the President for Economy and Financial Affairs. He worked hard to maintain the financial soundness of the government while serving as Head of the Budget Office and as Vice Minister at the Ministry of Strategy and Finance, which is in charge of drawing up and allocating the national budget. As Minister for Government Policy Coordination, he was responsible for overseeing the coordination of major government tasks and different ministries, and he chaired the Vice Presidents’ Meeting, which is the deliberation body under the Cabinet Meeting. President Kim received the Red Stripes Order of Service Merit for his contributions during his career as a public official.

In addition, President Kim has a deep understanding and interest in globalization, social mobility, and literature and culture. He has actively participated in international cooperation projects and research while working as a visiting professor at the School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS) of the Johns Hopkins University in the U.S. and as a project manager at the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD), etc. He has regularly given lectures and participated in volunteer activities, etc. to create the ladders of social mobility for underprivileged young people and to ultimately make our society healthier. He enjoys reading translated classics of the East and West, including novels; watching movies and plays and musicals in smaller theaters; and writing. He has long been a contributor of articles to daily newspapers.

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