Kim Yong-jin, a former vice minister at the Ministry of Economy and Finance, is likely to be appointed the next chairman of the National Pension Service (NPS) media outlets have reported, citing high-ranking government officials.

The Korea Economic Daily said that the NPS executive recommendation committee technically recommends candidates to the minister of health and welfare, who makes the final decision with President Moon Jae-in, but the choice is actually political.   

“Given the size of the NPS fund, which is worth more than 700 trillion won, and its influence on people’s retirement lifestyles, figures earmarked by the presidential office and other key members of the administration have been appointed as NPS chairman,” the newspaper noted. “It can be seen that former vice minister Kim has virtually been selected because the odds that other candidates will be the chairman are very low.”

Maeil Business, citing high-ranking government officials, said “Kim seems to be the most likely candidate”, and added: “This means to take care of those who fail in the general elections.” Kim ran for a constituency in Gyeonggi Province in the April general election, but lost.

The post has been vacant since January 7, when Kim Sung-ju stepped down to contest the election. NPS, which manages South Korea’s pension plan, announced last month it would be seeking candidates. 

However, a government official told The Korea Economic Daily: “I understand that Kim was selected from the beginning. The additional recruitment was conducted to meet the minimum competition rate (1 to 3) in the process.”

Kim held several key posts within the Ministry of Economy and Finance and then served as president of Korea East-West Power Co. 

The choice of chairman is being watched closely, as it may also determine whether Ahn Hyo-Joon stays on as NPS chief investment officer. His two-year term expires in October. (Reporting by Kyoungho Lee)