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Public spending of five candidates is disclosed

Apr 15,2017
An analysis into major presidential candidates’ spending in recent years shows that communication with the public was the main priority for both Moon Jae-in of the Democratic Party and Ahn Cheol-soo of the People’s Party, the two leading contenders in the May 9 election. Of the two, Ahn was the bigger spender.

The JoongAng Ilbo analyzed five presidential candidates’ political spending and operational expenditures for the past four years. In addition to Moon and Ahn, political and operational expenses of Hong Joon-pyo of the Liberty Korea Party, Yoo Seong-min of the Bareun Party and Sim Sang-jeung of the Justice Party were analyzed. For the analysis, 10,166 receipts were studied.

All five presidential candidates held public office before being nominated as presidential candidates. Moon, Ahn, Yoo and Sim are lawmakers; Hong was governor of South Gyeongsang, a post he resigned from earlier this month. Over the past four years, the five spent more than 4.83 billion won ($4.24 million) in total.

The total spending of Moon, who served as the Democratic Party’s chairman during the period, was 642 million won. The largest category was public affairs, on which he spent 242.6 million won.

Moon spent 137.3 million won on 971 discussion sessions that included meals for the participants. “As a prominent politician with strong presidential ambitions, he had to listen to various opinions from society,” said Yun Geon-yeong, a deputy team leader of the Moon campaign. “Often, Moon paid for the meals.”

Moon spent 34.9 million won on membership fees to the party. The party charges different amounts of monthly membership fees depending on the members’ positions, and Moon paid a particularly high amount because he was the chairman of the party from 2015 till 2016.

A total of 26.2 million won was spent on donations to other lawmakers and charity projects. Some 25 million won of that sum were contributions to fellow lawmakers. Lawmakers in Korea often give donations to each other within the legal limits to increase their political funds.

Another 1 million won was spent on a project to support the so-called comfort women, former sex slaves for the Japanese military during World War II, and 200,000 won was donated to the military unit trying to find remains of soldiers who died in the Korean War.

Ahn, who started his career as a lawmaker in 2013 and launched the People’s Party in 2012, spent most of his expenses on office operations. He spent 276.38 million won for operational costs, including rent on his election campaign office.

He spent only 4.19 million won for discussion sessions and meals. He spent another 8.79 million won to pay for bills in meetings with journalists.

“Ahn’s discussion sessions didn’t necessarily include meals,” said Rep. Kim Kyung-jin, senior spokesman of the People’s Party. “He had many tea time meetings and discussions in conference rooms. He was not negligent in making contacts as a politician.”

Ahn also spent 132.3 million won on public opinion polls, a far larger sum than Moon’s 34.1 million won.

Ahn, the founder of antivirus software company AhnLab, spent more than 3 million won to purchase licensed computer software. He also purchased two second-hand computers for his district office.

Ahn’s total spending was more than 823 million won.

“Ahn had to finance three election campaigns during the period,” said Kim. “He had higher fixed expenses.”

Hong, during his five years as governor, spent 952 million won. Some 51.2 percent was operational expenses, worth nearly 488 million won.

Sim spent the most on discussion sessions (18.58 million won) and developing policies (26.95 million won).

Sim recorded the highest amount of money for political activities for her and the party. Sim spent more than 750 million won paying back loans.

BY SOHN GUK-HEE [ser.myoja@joongang.co.kr]