Korea Investment Corporation is expected to announce today the formal nomination of Choi Chong-suk as its next chief executive. The $45 billion sovereign wealth fund named Choi internally yesterday after a long-publicised search for someone to succeed Chin Young-wook, who is retiring, having completed his three-year term.

Today is Chin’s last day at KIC, and Choi is expected to start work on Monday, but his appointment still requires formal approval by Korean president Lee Myung-bak.

Choi is a surprise winner from a shortlist that had included government officials, including candidates from the Ministry of Finance and Strategy, one of KIC's two shareholders, alongside Bank of Korea. The MoF made the final choice.

People familiar with the appointment say it sends out a good message, because Choi’s background is in the private sector. He also has an international background and is fluent in English.

This is in keeping with the government’s policy to shield KIC – and its assets – as much as possible from local back-room politics. The current chief investment officer is Scott Kalb, an American whose own term will expire in April 2012.

Choi, 60, is the son of Choi Kya-ha, former president of the Republic of Korea in the late 1970s. His career has been in banking, initially with Korea Exchange Bank and then Hana Bank Group and its affiliates, where he had been vice-CEO (one of several deputy positions to the group’s chairman) and president of its China business.

He also has asset management experience, having served as co-chairman of the now-defunct joint venture, Hana Allianz Asset Management, and chairman of Allianz Global Investors’ Korea business. His most recent role has been as adviser to Hana Bank.

If the Blue House accepts Choi’s nomination, he will be KIC’s fourth president.