After donation, Lee’s wealth shrunk 86% in 2009

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After donation, Lee’s wealth shrunk 86% in 2009

President Lee Myung-bak’s personal wealth has markedly decreased over the past year, after he donated a large sum of money to a scholarship foundation in 2009, a government ethics committee said yesterday.

The president’s declared wealth declined by 30.7 billion won ($27 million) from 2008 to 4.9 billion won last year, the largest reduction in personal assets among the nation’s ranking government officials, the committee said in its annual report on changes of personal property.

By law, high-level civil servants of the executive, legislative and judiciary branches are required to report changes in their assets to their respective ethics committees every year. Falsified reports can lead to fines or dismissals.

Lee last year donated 33.2 billion won, or over 90 percent of his life’s savings, complying with his campaign pledge to give all of his personal wealth back to society, with the exception of a house for his family after his retirement.

The president established a scholarship foundation in September to handle his donated wealth. The Lee & Kim Foundation is named after the president and his wife, Kim Yoon-ok. In Korean, it is known as the Cheonggye Foundation, after one of the president’s pen names.

Meanwhile, the property of Prime Minister Chung Un-chan increased by 1 million won to 1.8 billion won, while Foreign Minister Yu Myung-hwan reported wealth of 2.8 billion won, up by 48 million won.

Reports released separately by the government, the legislature and the judiciary showed that 986 officials, or 43.4 percent of the 2,723 high-ranking administrative and judicial officials and lawmakers, had lost some of their wealth. The figure for 2008 was 41 percent.

The losses were apparently due to the decline in the value of real estate and an overall economic slowdown, the report said.

Chung Mong-joon, chairman of the ruling Grand National Party and the largest shareholder in Hyundai Heavy Industries, topped the aggregate list of lawmakers and government and judicial officials in terms of wealth at 1.45 trillion won, according to the reports. His wealth decreased by 189.6 billion won from 2008 after a fall in the company’s stock prices.

But 71, or 24.2 percent, of the 293 lawmakers who reported their assets, had gained more than 100 million won in 2009 from a year ago.

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