[OUTLOOK]Let the waters flowA Mr. Jang lived in a leased house in Dang-dong, Gunpo City, Gyeonggi province. The apartment was 80 square meters and the lease was 85 million won ($90,000). The owner of the apartment wanted Mr. Jang to move out so he was looking for a new apartment, but he could not find one of the same size. He took a loan and paid 120 million won to lease a 112-square meter apartment. (Hankyoreh, Sept. 14)
A Mr. Yoo, 38, used to live in a leased house. But the owner wanted to change the apartment from a lease to a rental. Mr. Yoo wanted to find another place for lease but would have had to pay thousands of won more for a place of the same size. He had no choice but to pay rent as the owner wanted. (Chosun Ilbo, Sept. 15)
People who used to live in leased houses are having a difficult time. All this is happening under an administration which claims that it works for working class people and that it is determined to control real estate prices. What is the reason for all this? The government intended to have an influence on residents in affluent southern Seoul but I never heard of anybody living in that area having a hard time. Nothing has been changed for those people while others living in leased houses have become victims. Why is that so?
The government implemented measures aimed at “punishing” people in southern Seoul, but the people who were actually “punished” were those living in leased houses, which are the most vulnerable in terms of housing matters.
When the supply of leased houses declines sharply, tenants must pay more for deposits or move to smaller apartments in less convenient locations. The government presented a measure designed to make it easier for people to take loans for deposits. But loans are debts for tenants after all.
In the meantime, there are few jobs, which is another serious problem. People who have jobs and receive salaries do not understand the situation. Unionized workers in big companies demand pay rises and go on strike. The most vulnerable people in terms of jobs are the ones who have not found employment yet. College students postpone their graduation because they cannot find jobs after graduation. If they want to apply for jobs next year, being a student is better than being jobless so they want to remain as students. The government has been putting all its efforts into punishing conglomerates. But the youths who have never been employed are being victimized.
Another serious matter is education. As people no longer trust public education, students pour into private educational institutes. The government hates people who go to or went to elite school so it closed some elite schools. However, people with money send their children abroad for better schooling. In the past, elite schools gave opportunities to children from poor families to receive a good education as long as they studied hard because it was only their competence that mattered. These days, however, students from poor families cannot go to elite schools nor go abroad. The government closed elite schools, stating that only the children of rich parents went there. But children of poor parents have become the victims.
This is the irony of society. The strong and the talented were the targets but the weakest class was damaged. This is because both classes are connected. Let’s say you stop supplying water to a rice paddy at an upper level because you hate the owner. The paddy that is then damaged the most is the one on the lowest level. If water flows over in the highest paddy, it naturally flows into a lower paddy. When this paddy is also full, water flows into even lower paddies. All the government needs to do is to fill the water and ensure the ditches are not blocked. If the number of houses increases, the number of houses for lease will be abundant. Then tenants can even buy houses on deposit. If the number of companies increases, the number of jobs will also increase. The young can select good jobs from among many. If the number of good schools increases, the number of people who receive a good education also increases. These are the flows and laws of nature.
If one blocks water from an upper paddy under the name of social justice or equality, no water can flow. Communist regimes blocked this water and distributed water to individuals but this only caused all the fields to dry up.
The administration says livelihoods are in difficulty while the economy is fine. What does this mean? The government blames globalization and polarization for this but it should stop making such lame excuses. The lowest field of people’s livelihoods is drying up because a waterway in the upper paddy is being blocked. The government should make the water flow over in order for the entire country to become moist and thus abundant.
* The writer is the chief editor of the editorial page of the JoongAng Ilbo.
by Moon Chang-keuk