Strategy and Finance Minister, South Korea
South Korea has been hit hard by the financial crisis and Finance
Minister Kang Man-soo has organised a US$11 billion stimulus package.
He is maintaining the commitments he made at the Korea-Africa Economic
Cooperation Conference on 27-30 October 2008 in Seoul. Korea pledged some
$760 mn. in new finance for infrastructure and mining projects, with
Angola as a favoured client.
Kang spoke for developing nations alongside South Africa’s Trevor
Manuel at September’s International Monetary Fund Board of Governors
meeting and the emergency G-20 meeting in Washington in November. Seoul
has a national interest in this: apart from Africa, Kang wants to see
aid flowing to North Korea, his impoverished and unpredictable
neighbor. Kang’s concern for development issues contrasts sharply with
his tough image at home: he is in President Lee Myung-bak’s coterie and
an ardent tax-cutter.
Kang studied law at Seoul National University and economics at New
York University. He joined the Finance Ministry in 1970, becoming
Vice-Minister in 1997. When the 1997-98 Asian financial crisis revealed
South Korea’s banking system to be opaque and inefficient, Kang lost
his post. He then became a discreet advisor to President Lee, first
when Lee was Seoul Mayor, and later on during Lee’s presidential
campaign. That victory returned Kang to the Finance Ministry early this
President Lee assesses Korea’s current financial situation to be as
bad as it was during the 1997-98 crisis. Kang argues otherwise,
pointing to increased foreign exchange reserves. Opposition politicians
still scuttled Kang’s trip to the G-20 finance ministers’ meeting 8-9
November in Brazil, demanding he stay to face questions over his
handling of the economy. Deputy Minister Shin Je-yoon took his place.