Monetary policy committee member to chair rate-setting meeting in case BOK chief post remains vacant

SEOUL-- A monetary policy committee member of the Bank of Korea (BOK) could preside over an interest rate-setting meeting scheduled for mid-April in the case the central bank chief post remains vacant, the central bank said Wednesday.

Last week, Rhee Chang-yong, director of the Asia and Pacific department at the International Monetary Fund, was nominated to lead the BOK as incumbent BOK Gov. Lee Ju-yeol is set to leave office on Thursday following eight years at the helm.

Concerns are growing that Rhee might leave the chief post vacant for weeks and be unable to chair the April 14 rate-setting meeting as he needs to go through a parliamentary confirmation hearing, widely seen as a formality. The date of the hearing has yet to be decided.

Joo Sang-yeong, one of the seven members of the monetary policy committee and a member regarded as a dovish in monetary policy, is ready to preside over the April meeting as the committee recently selected him as acting chair for six months from Friday to Sept. 30, according to the BOK.

Joo will also speak during a press conference to be held right after the meeting, an occasion designed to provide details on the BOK's monetary policy direction.

It would be the first time that a monetary policy committee member serves as acting chair of a rate-setting meeting and leads a subsequent press conference, a BOK official said.

Market watchers are keeping a close eye on the upcoming rate-setting meeting as it comes after the U.S. Federal Reserve recently raised the federal funds rates by a quarter percentage point from near zero to fight soaring inflation.

The BOK has hiked its key policy rate three times since August last year, including the 0.25 percentage point increase in January, after maintaining borrowing costs at record lows for about two years to cushion the shock from the pandemic. It has hinted at additional rate hikes in the months to come to keep inflation in check.

Joo has often provided minority views in recent rate hike decisions, voicing concerns that steep and fast borrowing cost increases could weigh on the economy still under the strain of the pandemic.

Source: Yonhap News Agency