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Unprecedentedly Fast Promotion to Deputy Prime Minister

Posted February. 27, 2003 23:00,   


Kim Jin-pyo promoted to Deputy Prime Minister. That is an exceptional case, considering that Seo Seok-jun, a former Deputy Prime Minister appointed at the age of 45, in 5 years and 7 months after the appointment of vice minister and Lim Chang-ryul, another former Deputy Prime Minister in 2 years and 11 months.

▽ Thorough Preparedness. What could be the secret of such a fast promotion? He told his close colleagues in officialdom about the secret: predictability and preparedness.


There is an old episode unknown even in the public offices.

In the late 1970s when the Central Intelligence Agency was so powerful, Kim Jae-kyu, then director made a phone call to Vice Minister of Finance.

“I have already told you three times to report the plan on increasing the distribution of traditional liquor. But I haven`t received any response. Give me the report immediately by tomorrow morning.”

A surprised Vice Minister tried to meet the director of the related bureau and the director tried to meet the head of the related department. However, after the closing office hours, there was no way to reach them.

The then secretary Kim Jin-pyo asked the fidgety director. “What is the matter?”

“It`s none of your business. You`ve been working here only for a month. It would be hard for you to figure out.”

“But please tell me what it is.”

“It`s about the traditional liquor.”

“It that`s the case, I have one report prepared.”

The next day, the director managed to submit the report to Kim Jae-kyu.

▽ Ability to harmonize and coordinate. When he was the head of tax policy division of the Ministry of Finance, his colleagues had a hard time making appointments with him because he already had previous ones for the coming two months.

The way he talks is neither sophisticated nor eloquent, but it is his greatest strength to make others like him. He also drinks to his heart`s content.

A senior official at the Ministry of Finance and Economy, who knows him well, said of him, “He had a great interpersonal skill. So he is very good at coordinating issues of the interested parties.”

However, his ability to coordinate is not all about the interpersonal relationships. Sometimes, he makes unprecedented attempts.

As the director general of Tax and Custom Office of the MOFE in 2000, the biggest pending issue was a reform of tax on energy. It was very difficult for him to coordinate because there were too many different opinions not only in the industry but also in the government agencies. It was later told that he met with the related ministers and vice ministers and the chairman of the Policy Committee of the Millennium Democratic Party (MDP) in person to make the reform successful.

DPM Kim enjoys confidence and popularity in the organization. He is said to be trustworthy and reliable for his bosses. In addition, he is admired for his strong leadership. He is scrupulous at work while compassionate to his colleagues.

After working as director of Tax and Custom Office of the MOFE, he was appointed MOFE Vice Minister in April 2001 without serving as head of other government agencies like Korea Custom Service. It is told that Jin Nyum, then Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance and Economy insisted, “The vice minister who works with me must be Kim.”

▽Lucky Opportunities vs. Limit to overcome

A MOFE senior official said, “If Kim had remained chief secretary of policy planning in the presidential office, he wouldn`t have been appointed DPM.” He was lucky enough to impress President Roh, then Minister of Maritime Affairs and Fisheries, when he was the director of Tax and Custom Office.

However, some point out his limit as DPM, expressing concerns about his ability to lead the economy, because his career is concentrated on the field of tax and custom. Skeptics wonder if he could say `No` to the president and director of policy planning of Chongwadae when they ask him to come up with a plan that goes against the economic principle or efficiency.

Soon-Hwal Kwon Kwang-Am Cheon shkwon@donga.com iam@donga.com