[REPORTER'S DIARY]Is no one in charge here?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