Go to contents

Noteworthy argument between minister and professor

Posted September. 29, 2000 21:14,   


The ongoing debate between Finance-Economy Minister Jin Nyum and Prof. Chung Un-Chan of Seoul National University is drawing our attention in a few points. Such a debate between the high-ranked official and a noted economics professor is not rare for the present Korean society. It is professor Chung that raised the question first. In a column contributed to The Dong-A Ilbo, he developed his assertion from different dimension of the ordinary criticism of the government's economic policies. The professor went as far as to demand the dismissal of Minister Jin, who took office some 50 days ago.

The minister's counterattack on the professor is also rare. It is a practice that the ministers or high-ranked officials used to go without making reactions to any critical news stories or columns, unless they are obviously considered wrong. But this time, the minister has come to the front to counter-attack his critic. Their men's social status and human relationship have also contributed to drawing a public attention. Minister Jin and Prof. Chung are alumnae of Seoul National University, majoring in economics. They have enjoyed reputation for their outstanding ability in their pertinent academic field.

However, their careers they have passed are widely different. Minister Jin's profession is said to be a ministership. He served as various ministerial portfolios like energy-resources, labor, planning-budget and now finance-economy, under the successive presidents, Roh Tae-Woo, Kim Young-Sam and incumbent Kim Dae-Jung, with their particular blessings. On the other hand, Prof. Chung cut the figure as a noted scholar of the opposition characteristics. Chung steadfastly maintained a critical stance against the authoritarian presidents until ex-president Kim Young-Sam government. As a reformative economics scholar, he drew attention from Kim (YS) but he declined Kim's offers for taking posts as governor of the Bank of Korea and some others.

Antagonism between the two is not limited to the conflicting views on the economic policy matters. Chung is intimate with Kim Chong-In, former senior presidential secretary for economic affairs, who rivaled with Jin over the finance-economy ministerial post until the last time. For that matter, rumors had it then that the professor had recommended Kim for the finance-economy ministership. But Chung denied it later.

Meanwhile, Hah Sung-Keun, professor of Yonsei University, commented that Chung seems to write the critical column aimed at warning Jin's economic policies, adding that there were problems with the selection of the economic ministers as well as with their current economic policies, as Chung had pointed out. On the other hand, Min Byoung-Kyun, president of the Center for Free Enterprise, said that there is room for them to criticize the minister's economic policies, but that it went too far to demand Jin's resignation, only 50 days after taking office. More urgent for now is to overcome the looming economic crisis, he added. Thus, both Hah and Min shared the view that it is too early to demand the replacement of the chief economic official at this juncture.