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Woori Financial Group chairman relents, will step down in March

Jan. 18, 2023 - 15:48 By Song Seung-hyun
Son Tae-seung (The Korea Herald)

Woori Financial Group Chairman and CEO Son Tae-seung will step down from office when his second term ends in March.

Son told the group’s next chairman selecting committee on Wednesday morning that he will not seek his third term, according to the Woori Financial Group.

The chairman’s decision came before the committee’s meeting on Wednesday afternoon to finalize a “long list” of candidates for chairman of Woori Financial Group.

Son on Wednesday also announced that he is "looking forward to see the committee appointing a competent successor who will grow the group further with value as a completely privatized group."

Son’s reappointment issue has been the talk of the town for a while as financial authorities have been constantly pressuring the chairman to resign and accept the penalty that he received for mis-selling funds run by now-defunct Lime Asset Management.

Since this penalty could thwart him from landing new jobs in the finance sector for at least three years, it has been considered the key factor that could affect his reappointment.

On Jan. 5, Financial Services Commission Chairman Kim Joo-hyeon said he feels uncomfortable about Son considering filing an injunction request against the financial watchdog's penalty over the Lime funds incident.

Kim’s stance was in line with Financial Supervisory Service chief Lee Bok-hyun, who also pressured the head of Woori Financial Group last year indirectly by complimenting Shinhan Financial Group Chairman Cho Yong-byeong for offering his resignation. Cho’s term also ends in March.

If Son was to secure a reappointment for a third term, Son had to file an injunction request and the court has to accept it before the short list announcement of the group’s chairman candidate is set to be made on Jan. 27.

Even though the group declined to confirm, industry insiders see that he will still file an injunction request against the financial watchdog's penalty.

Meanwhile, Son's resignation news was considered surprising to industry insiders in Korea as there were many speculations that Son will seek reappointment even though there are pressures from financial authorities.

Woori Financial Group being selected as the preferred bidder for the acquisition of Daol Investment on Tuesday also backed up this speculation.

This is because the acquisition deal has been considered one of the projects that the group’s shareholders have supported. Industry insiders presumed that Son has been putting a lot of effort into making it successful to secure his reappointment.