Wilshire Bancorp Inc. of Los Angeles said late Friday that it had hired Jae Whan Yoo, who resigned abruptly from Center Financial Corp. of Los Angeles in January, as president and chief executive.

Yoo succeeded Joanne Kim, who resigned from the $3 billion-asset Wilshire. Analysts were closely watching Yoo, knowing he would be highly sought given his 35-year career in Korean-American banking. Yoo will also serve as a Wilshire director.

Yoo has led many big Korean-American banking companies, including the $3 billion-asset Hanmi Financial Corp. He was Center's president and chief executive for three years.

In December, the $2.3 billion-asset Center agreed to merge with Nara Bancorp Inc., also of Los Angeles.

The deal is expected to close in the second half of 2010. The plan was for Yoo to become president and for Nara's president and chief executive, Alvin Kang, to become chief executive.

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