Go to contents

Park Bong-heum vs. Byun Yang-kyoon

Posted May. 16, 2017 07:23,   

Updated May. 16, 2017 07:28


MOFIA refers to former elite bureaucrats who worked for the finance ministry. It is a portmanteau word combining the MOF (Ministry of Finance) and mafia. The word itself sounds closed and dogmatic. Many of them are graduates of elite schools -- Kyunggi High School and Seoul National University (abbreviated as KS) with a law or a business major. EPB refers to former elite officials who worked at the Economic Planning Board (EPB). The history of Korean economic bureaucrats was about conflicts between MOFIA and the EPB.

Having power in finance and tax took regulation and intervention granted, MOFIA was criticized by market liberalists. They were good at crisis management and acted as troubleshooters in times of crisis. This is why MOFIA could succeed. The EPB who took a grip on budget gained power under the Roh Moo-hyun administration. Former President Roh who hated the control of the government chose Park Bong-heum, 69, and Byeon Yang-kyoon, 68, as the second and fourth policy head of the Presidential Office. Park was even called President Roh’s right arm.

Park and Byeon have a lot in common. Both are from South Gyeongsang Province and graduated a high school in Busan. Park and Byeon passed the 13th and 14th Higher Civil Service examinations, respectively, in 1973, and both served as a vice minister and then a minister of the Planning and Budget Ministry. Byeon served as a vice minister for Park who was a minister for about a year. Coincidentally, both stepped down from the policy head position of the presidential office in only five months. Only the reason behind the stepdown was different: Park resigned due to an illness while Byeon stepped down due to a scandal.

Hong Nam-ki, new director of policy coordination, and Lee Jeong-do, senior secretary for general affairs for the presidential office, are perceived as people close to Byeon. However, Hong served as a secretary for Park who was then a planning and budget minister. This is why we can think that Park and Byeon who joined the group of policy advisors for the Moon Jae-in camp recommended non-KS (Hong) and non-civil exam (Lee). MOFIA is weak now but personnel appointments in the economy sector will show who will win – the EPB or MOFIA.