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A case of hypocrisy (KOR)

Mar 27,2020
You can hardly compel others to do what you don’t want to. If someone does that, he or she is called a hypocrite. An act of self-cheating only puts others in danger. In this respect, the Blue House must apologize for what it has done: demanding that ordinary citizens sell residences they are not living in but own for other purposes, such as investment.

According to a recent report jointly released by the Moon Jae-in administration and the Public Officials Ethics Committee in the National Assembly, 27 out of 87 senior officials — above the level of secretary in the Blue House and above the level of deputy minister in the government — owned more than two houses in their own name or their spouse’s name. Twenty-one of the 27 had multiple homes in the posh Gangnam District in southern Seoul, an area designated as a speculative zone. In the Blue House, one out of three aides to President Moon Jae-in turned out to be multiple-home owners.

Last December, when the government came up with its 18th set of measures since 2017 to cool down the real estate market, Moon’s Chief of Staff Noh Young-min instructed the Blue House staff to “sell your houses except one if you have multiple homes in Seoul and Gyeonggi.” If civil servants took the lead, it will help stabilize housing prices, he explained. In the meantime, prices of their apartments jumped by 300 million won ($244,100) on average, and in some cases, soared by a 1 billion won.

How would the public, who naively followed the Blue House’s instructions, feel now? They would surely feel betrayed by the presidential office. Even though the demand is not legally binding — and three more months are left before the deadline — we haven’t heard any news that they sold their extra apartments.

That’s called playing the public for fools. The government’s unrealistic — and incomprehensible — attempt to cool down the real estate market has been a disaster from the beginning. The Moon administration tried to suppress both demand and supply for quality apartments favored by the public instead of fixing the problem by increasing supplies. On top of that, the government raised taxes, toughened procedures for getting loans, and reinforced regulations on redevelopment. All of those measures ended up elevating housing prices further.

Policymakers must change course. Even they cannot sell their apartments after housing transactions ground to a halt. The government must apologize for forcing ordinary people to do what its own ranks won’t. We are in an economic crisis from the Covid-19 outbreak. A little humility is in order.