Bank of Korea chief cornered for taking wife on costly trips

By Korea Herald
  • Published : Oct 24, 2012 - 20:24
  • Updated : Oct 24, 2012 - 20:34
Kim Choong-soo
Bank of Korea Governor Kim Choong-soo is under fire for spending nearly 120 million won ($109,000) of the central bank’s coffers on six business trips with his wife.

Ever since Kim took office in April 2010, Kim’s wife has accompanied him on work trips ― three in 2010, one last year and two this year ― to Basel, Switzerland; the Netherlands; Sydney, Australia; Jackson Hole, a resort in the U.S. state of Wyoming; and Hokkaido, Japan.

The BOK spent about 100 million won for air transportation of Kim and his wife, and about 15 million won (300,000 won per day) for other costs during their stays abroad, according to the bank’s data released by Rep. Choi Jae-sung of the Democratic United Party on Wednesday.

The invitations to international conferences where central bankers meet such as the Bank for International Settlements conferences, the Executives’ Meeting of East Asia Pacific Central Banks and the Jackson Hole Symposium (an economy policy conference hosted by FRB Kansas City) did not specifically ask the central bankers to bring their spouses.

Most invitations to such conferences, however, contain programs for the spouses of participants, said a public relations official at the BOK.

“Both the governor and his wife flew mostly first class, in accordance with the rules on business trips of all minister-level officials,” he said.

Kim went on a total of 48 work trips as BOK chief, accumulating some 710,000 miles in airline mileage.

Noting that the BOK has used Kim’s mileage only four times so far, Rep. Choi accused the central bank of “poor management” of traveling expenses.

The BOK’s guideline on business trips specifies that the bank must prioritize the use of mileage in purchasing or upgrading air tickets.

“To reduce costs, we often use the mileage for upgrading business-class tickets to first class,” the BOK official said.

“Of the governor’s 710,000 miles, 140,000 miles have been used so far on four occasions, and the remaining 570,000 miles can be used only for official purposes during the governor’s term, which ends in April 2014. They cannot be used for personal trips.”

Seats that can be purchased with mileage are highly limited, and most travel plans were made just before the conferences, making it difficult to use the mileage, he added.

Kim’s predecessor Lee Seong-tae had also traveled with his wife 15 times for work during his four-year term.

Kim raised his voice at the parliamentary audit on Wednesday in response to Rep. Choi’s questioning over the frequent trips.

“All the (international) conferences I went to required central bankers’ attendance,” Kim said. “Trips accompanying my spouse were never once against rules and standard practice.”

The frequency of central bankers’ meetings increased after the global financial crisis, Kim said.

By Kim So-hyun (