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[Reporter`s View] Senior economic secretary`s indiscreet remarks

[Reporter`s View] Senior economic secretary`s indiscreet remarks

Posted February. 23, 2001 13:42,   


U.S. Federal Reserve Board Chairman Alan Greenspan tends to use metaphorical and roundabout phraseology. He rarely gives hard and fast answers. U.S. Treasury secretaries are noted for using equivocal and opaque language. The reason is that even a single word could have a significant impact on America`s economy.

Lee Ki-Ho, senior presidential secretary for economic affairs, stated in a meeting of the Seoul Economists Club Wednesday that new mergers between banks would be eventually realized. It is common for only a small number of people to have knowledge of corporate or financial mergers and acquisitions before they are completed. If such plans are leaked, the undertakings could be jeopardized.

Secretary Lee`s statement was interpreted as a sign of a pending government policy to promote a new round of bank mergers. The banks vehemently denied the merger plans. In a meeting of the chief executive officers (CEOs) of these financial institutions held the same day, the participants got into a heated debate over Lee remarks.

Quoting Confucian teachings in response to Lee`s statement, deputy prime minister and finance and economy minister Jin Nyum said that if someone is not in a position to deal with an issue, he should refrain from discussing the matter.

For the presidential secretary, slips of the tongue are not uncommon. For example, when investment trust firms were engulfed in a crisis last year, Lee cautioned that several more companies were sure to face financial crunches, which resulted in a rash of withdrawals. At the time, if the government had not taken prompt countermeasures, the financial sector would have faced a serious credit crunch.

For high-ranking officials, a good policy would be to speak only after adequate reflection. Korea is too vulnerable to dismiss remarks by highly-placed officials as mere ``happenings.``