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Talking about taxes

July 22,2017
Kim Dong-yeon, deputy prime minister for the economy, chairs economics-related cabinet meetings. He makes opening remarks and cabinet members discuss pending issues. But it was Kim Boo-kyum, the interior minister, who stole the spotlight in Thursday’s meeting.

Interior Minister Kim was first to speak after the deputy prime minister. He said the time has arrived for the government to “honestly” discuss the need for hikes in individual and corporate income taxes in order to finance spending while ensuring fiscal integrity.

On the previous day, the media questioned how the new government planned to finance its ambitious five-year agenda. After Kim opened the meeting, other cabinet members debated the issue. Four openly argued for higher tax rates, and two others approved while cautioning about the timing. About a third of the 18 cabinet members in attendance agreed on the need.

The deputy prime minister said the meeting was where economics-related ministers freely put forth their ideas to highlight the “communicativeness” of the new administration. But he should think about why the interior minister’s comment received more media attention than his opening remarks.

The government has been dishonest in claiming that it could come up with 178 trillion won ($159 billion) over the next five years to fund its key programs through natural increases in tax revenues, savings and rationalization of the tax system. The finance ministry every year vows to fix the tax deduction segments, but its proposal always is refused by a National Assembly that is innately vulnerable to interest groups.

JoongAng Ilbo, July 21, Page 30