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Government to scrutinize living assistance aid

Jan 12,2018

The government plans to tighten inspections of people who receive living assistance grants after a gruesome murder case last year revealed the suspect had been receiving government assistance for more than decade.

During a cabinet meeting on Thursday, Prime Minister Lee Nak-yon expressed concern about the government’s distribution of aid to low-income and needy people, citing the infamous “Molar Daddy” case in which the suspect, Lee Young-hak, who suffers from a rare genetic disorder that lent him the nickname, murdered a 14-year-old friend of his daughter.

“The ‘Molar Daddy’ case that happened in October was itself a major shock,” Lee said, “but there is also the hidden problem of how a person like that could have been receiving the government allowance. It was a case that showed how loosely the execution of such government grants has been managed.”

Lee collected 120 million won ($112,000) from the government for 13 years, even while he made 1.2 billion won from donations related to his illness. The government aid is given to people in the bottom income rung to cover living expenses.

Lee allegedly used the donated money on entertainment and luxury goods, including a high-end automobile. Before the murder case, Lee garnered public sympathy when he appeared on national television to discuss his genetic condition, gigantiform cementoma, which causes disfigurement of the jaws and teeth.

After undergoing several surgeries, he was left with only one molar tooth, earning him the public nickname “Molar Daddy.” His daughter suffers from the same condition.

“In the past 10 years, the total amount of government grants has more than doubled,” Prime Minister Lee said. “However, the public’s trust is not as high on whether it has been strictly executed.”

Last year, the government handed out 59.6 trillion won in aid, making up nearly 15 percent of its 400.5 trillion won budget. The government is intensifying its inspection of handouts in three ways: creating a more comprehensive grant management system; sharing information between different government departments and among local governments; and encouraging individuals to report hidden wealth.

Currently, information on donations, car insurance payouts and financial transactions are not part of the government’s grant management system.

Through the changes, the government hopes to take a more scrupulous approach to deciding whether recipients should continue to receive aid.

“The government grant problem is like bribery because it is difficult to identify,” Lee said. To encourage reports, the government plans to reward up to 200 million won to people who report suspicious finances.

BY LEE HO-JEONG [lee.hojeong@joongng.co.kr]