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Memoirs of Kang Kyung-shik

Posted December. 15, 2010 11:21,   


Former Finance Minister Kang Kyung-shik has published the memoir “What a Nation Should and Should Not Do.” Starting his career as administrator at the Finance Ministry in 1961, he was in the public sector for approximately 30 years. In the book, he asks why government administration should be conducted only by the government, suggesting that the market should decide certain things. He said he deeply regretted not having allowed the then debt-ridden Kia Motors to go bankrupt in 1997.

The most eye-catching part of the book is the development of the 1997 Asian currency crisis. On Nov. 14, 1997, Kang asked the International Monetary Fund for a bailout after reporting to then President Kim Young-sam. Two days later, Kang asked IMF Managing Director Michel Camdessus for a bailout of 30 billion U.S. dollars, and decided to make an official announcement of the deal on Nov. 19. Kang was replaced by Lim Chang-yuel that morning, however. Lim reversed Kang’s decision but requested an IMF bailout on Nov. 21 because he failed to attract foreign funding.

Kang claims in his book that the government had no choice but to accept tough bailout conditions due to loss of trust by the U.S. and the IMF for reversing the promise. Kim In-ho, then presidential senior economic adviser, also wrote in a newspaper column, “Had we not broken the promise and showed our will for restructuring, we could have rejected the IMF’s tightening measures through negotiations.” Too bad the government handled the national matter rather unintelligently.

Kang criticized the Kim Dae-jung administration for taking him and Kim In-ho to court on the grounds they were the main culprits for the currency crisis. Kang said the government, politicians and businesses should have been blamed altogether. In 2004, the Supreme Court found them not guilty by saying their policy judgment held no legal responsibility. A trial has been held on the currency crisis but no white book has been published on the matter. The U.S. released the 9/11 Commission Report after several years of research and Thailand’s Nukul Commission Report covers the causes of the currency crisis. Disappointingly, Koreans have to resort to memoirs of related individuals and National Assembly reports to know about their painful experiences.

Editorial Writer Hong Kwon-hee (konihong@donga.com)