Is no one in charge here?

Dec 06,2001

On Friday, when I found that lawmakers from the ruling and opposition parties agreed to pass the proposed Commercial Real Estate Lease Protection Law, I did some research on how administration officials were addressing this issue. The bill proposed by legislators, not by bureaucrats, would affect more than 4 million people, such as real-estate owners and leaseholders. A brief look at the draft bill provided a peek at the measure's potentially huge impact on the economy.

First, I visited the Ministry of Construction and Transportation. An official at the ministry's housing policy division said, "We deal with houses, not with commercial buildings." The official did not even know that the bill was being pursued. No division of the ministry was in charge of the issue. Later, I learned that another official at the housing policy unit had been in charge of this issue before leaving the country to study abroad.

Then I visited the Ministry of Commerce, Industry and Energy, which recently unveiled a series of measures to support small and medium businesses. None of these officials had a clue. I moved on to the Ministry of Finance and Economy, which is in charge of the country's economic affairs. A ministry official said, "The Office of Financial Policy was involved in the issue a little because the Korea Federation of Banks was opposed to the bill. But we are no longer involved in it." The official responsible for this issue had been moved around so often that no one knew what was going on.

I have often seen economic ministries vying to handle an issue or ducking the responsibility.

I continued my quest and managed to learn that a public prosecutor at the Office of Legal Counsel under the Ministry of Justice was in charge of this real estate bill. The prosecutor said the Justice Ministry was the official administration agency dealing with the lawmakers' proposal because the legislation is related with civil law.

Having studied theses on the real estate systems in major economies, the prosecutor seemed to have a good grasp of the issue. He gave me the background and the history of the bill, information the economic ministries could not provide.

"Officials from economic ministries were present sometimes at policy coordination meetings between the administration until early this year," the prosecutor said. "But their involvement fizzled out. It was hard to get in touch with them, and they did not come to the National Assembly's committee meetings. They never gave me their opinion, probably because we were dealing with a very sensitive issue. I'm in charge of this alone. Honestly, I am concerned about what impact this bill would have."

Economic ministries hold various meetings led by ministers or vice ministers almost every week. But measures about the proposed Commercial Real Estate Lease Protection Law had never been put on the table. Do the bureaucrats think they do not have to be involved in the issue because the legislation is pushed by lawmakers? Or is it that the bill is related with civil law, and, therefore, economic bureaucrats need not bother with it?

The writer is a reporter of the JoongAng Ilbo.

by Lee Hyo-joon

상가임대차법안 누가 챙기나

여야가 상가임대차보호법안을 정기국회에서 처리하기로 합의했다는 사실이 알려진 지난달 30일 경제부처를 대상으로 보충취재에 나섰다. 의원입법이지만 건물주.임대상인 등 이해관계인만 4백만명이 넘는 데다 얼핏 보기에도 경제적으로 큰 파장을 예고했기 때문이다.

먼저 건설교통부를 찾았다. 주택정책과 직원은 "우리는 주택만 다루지 상가는 취급하지 않는다. 그런 법도 있나"고 반문했다. 건교부 내 어디서도 맡는 곳이 없었다. 나중에 알았지만 주택정책과의 한 사무관이 이를 챙기다 유학을 떠난 상태였다.

최근 중소상공인 지원대책을 잇따라 내놓은 산업자원부로 옮겼다. 여기서도 모르긴 마찬가지였다. 경제부처를 총괄하는 재정경제부로 갔다. 한 직원이 "은행연합회에서 반대한다고 해서 금융정책실에서 조금 관여했고 지금은 관련이 없다"고 말했다. 실제론 담당 사무관의 업무가 여러차례 바뀌면서 같은 과 안에서도 잘 모르고 있었다.

어떤 문제를 놓고 경제부처들이 의도적으로 서로 영역을 떠밀거나 차지하려 드는 경우는 보았어도, 이처럼 중요한 법안에 합의할 때까지 손을 놓고 있는 경우는 찾아보기 힘들다.

계속 알아본 결과 법무부 법무심의관실 내 검사 한명이 담당 부서(?)로 판명됐다. 이 법안이 민법 관련 특별법이라서 법무부가 공식창구라는 것이다. 그 검사는 주요국가의 부동산제도에 대한 논문까지 뒤져가며 이 문제를 소상히 파악하고 있었다. 그는 경제부처에서 잘 모르는 배경과 경위를 설명했다.

"올 초 당정협의를 할 때까진 재경부와 산자부.건교부에서 담당자들이 더러 참석하다가 흐지부지됐다. 연락도 잘 안되고 여러차례 열린 국회 상임위에도 오지 않았다. 민감한 사안이라서 그런지 어떤 의견도 주지 않았다. 혼자서 맡고 있는데 솔직히 앞으로 파장이 걱정스럽다."

경제부처는 팀제로 거의 매주 장관 간담회나 조정회의, 또는 차관회의를 열고 있다. 그런데 상가임대차보호법안과 관련한 대책은 단 한번도 안건에 끼지 못했다. 이 문제가 의원입법이라서 행정부는 나설 필요가 없다고 생각한 것일까. 아니면 민법 관련 사안이므로 경제부처는 신경을 쓸 필요가 없다고 본 것일까.

by 이효준 경제부 기자

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