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[Newsmaker] FSS under fire for overpaying employees

June 30, 2013 - 20:38 By Chung Joo-won
The Financial Supervisory Service, Korea’s financial regulator, is facing heat for paying excessively high annual salaries to its employees amid mounting worldwide criticism against overpaid executives in the financial sector.

The controversy escalated as the FSS recently posted last year’s average annual salary of its employees. Payrolls of all state-controlled organizations are required to disclose their salaries.

The financial regulator’s average annual salary in 2012 ― 92 million won ($81,000) before taxation ― was considerably higher than most Korean workers.

The FSS’ salary included a 58 million won basic salary, a 27 million won bonus, a 5.4 million won incentive and an additional 8.7 million won for miscellaneous rewards, the regulator’s data showed.

The amount rose slightly by about 1.9 percent over the past five years.

This latest disclosure triggered criticism nationwide that its annual salary is far too high for a state-run organization.

The average annual salary of a Korean employee with 1.5 years of experience and a college diploma is about 22 million won, according to state researcher Korea Employment Information Service.

What further fanned the flame was the financial watchdog’s launch of a full-fledged investigation into overpaid chief executives of domestic financial companies.

Some FSS officials were skeptical about the 92 million won salary until they realized that those figures were from the FSS’ official website.

“Even a team leader who has worked for 15 to 17 years at the FSS cannot make that much,” one official said.

The regulator released a statement to ease the overpayment controversy, stating that not all FSS employees are paid as high as reported.

“Some of the highest-paid FSS employees increased the average salary of the whole staff,” the statement wrote. “Among the 14 state-controlled financial institutions, the FSS ranks eighth.”

The FSS noted that some state financial organizations offered even higher average annual salaries, such as 113.6 million won at the Korea Exchange, 100.8 million won at the Korea Securities Depository, 93.9 million won at the Bank of Korea and 93.6 million won at the Export-Import Bank of Korea.

The FSS also argued that 356 of its some 1,700 officials are lawyers, accountants and Ph.D. holders who are naturally paid higher salaries than the rest.

“The officials at decent private banks are paid about 15-20 percent higher than we are,” an FSS official said.

FSS officials have an average 17.1 years of service, with a large portion being as high-paid seniors, the FSS data showed.

By Chung Joo-won (