[EDITORIALS]Waging a war of statistics

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[EDITORIALS]Waging a war of statistics

The government authorities have been pouring out statistics on real estate recently. The Ministries of Construction and Transportation, and Government Administration and Home Affairs, and the National Tax Service have all released material revealing that Seoul’s Gangnam area is a hotbed of real estate speculation and that a few rich people own most of the land nationwide. We cannot help suspecting that the releases are intended to attract attention ahead of the announcement of a new plan to curb real estate speculation.
If we study the material, we can see that the logic and messages are all the same. The tax service came up with material on multiple house owners. The Construction Ministry singled out apartments in Gangnam as the hotbed of speculation, although over 59 percent of them are occupied by tenants. The Home Affairs Ministry produced data purporting to show that over 51 percent of the nation’s land is owned by the richest top 1 percent of the population.
These statistics have long been off the public record for reasons of “absence of data,” or the “possibility of causing social confusion.” We are at a loss as to why they are now pouring out into the public realm. The statistics on multiple house and land ownership do not change in a year or so. If the government had acted properly, it would have taken action to prevent multiple house owners from making speculations by utilizing such statistics.
Different government branches have hurt their credibility by presenting different data. The data on households with two houses, on which the government will impose higher taxes, is basic material that will gauge the effect of the new policy. The tax service announced that the number of such households is 1.58 million, while the Home Affairs Ministry said 887,180. The government says such errors come from the different standards each ministry uses. But if it established a plan based on such inconsistant data, the pledge that less than 1 percent of the population will be disadvantaged by the plan sounds incredible.
There is no need to divide the country to end real estate speculation. Establishing a system to prevent speculation and collecting profits from speculation by levying taxes quietly will work. The government should no longer divide people into those who live in Gangnam and those who don’t, and into haves and have-nots, pitting them against each other.
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