Gov’t workers homeless bound?

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Gov’t workers homeless bound?

The government plans to relocate government ministries and affiliated agencies to Sejong City, South Chungcheong by 2014, and with the offices of more than 11,000 government officials moving to the southwest part of the Korean Peninsula, officials will likely have difficulty finding suitable homes in the region, sources told the JoongAng Ilbo.

The officials said they are unable to find homes at a reasonable cost because apartment prices in Sejong City shot up a few years ago. Some workers purchased apartments in 2008, before the price hike began, but they are few in number.

“My office will be moved to Sejong City in 2013 and my husband and I quarrel over the issue all the time,” said a public-service worker surnamed Kim.

What hinders the Kim family from making such a big decision is the apartment they purchased in Gwacheon, Gyeonggi, two years ago.

The couple had planned to sell the Gyeonggi apartment to afford a new apartment in Sejong, but they have a dilemma - their apartment price dropped drastically compared to two years ago.

Kim said her family took out a 200 million won ($177,619) loan to afford the Gyeonggi apartment and they are still in the process of paying back the loan.

If Kim’s husband, a business owner in the metropolitan area, doesn’t agree to live with her in Sejong City, Kim said she will leave her three children with her husband in Seoul and live alone in Sejong, at least on weekdays.

“I bought an apartment in Gyeonggi because I knew my office was not moving to Sejong city at that time .?.?. if I knew I was moving there, I wouldn't have bought the house,” Kim said. “Many of my colleagues worry about the same thing.”

Under the government’s plan, more than 11,000 public service workers from nine government ministries, two services and two agencies, including the Prime Minister’s Office and the Ministry of Land, Transport and Maritime Affairs, are scheduled to move to Sejong City between 2012 and 2014.

Public servants complain that apartment prices in the area, as well as prices in an apartment complex overseen by the state-run Korea Land and Housing Corporation, are “outrageous.”

“Apartments [in this complex] will be put on sale next month at 6.5 million won per pyeong [35.5 square feet], while another apartment complex in the neighborhood is only 5 million won per pyeong,” said Oh Seong-taek, head of the Central Government Officials’ Labor Union.

The housing corporation said it is actually losing money because the desired sale price of an apartment in the complex is 7 million won per pyeong.

Some public servants are considering getting houses on the outskirts of Sejong City.

“I figured it's relatively more reasonable to get a house that is 30 or 40 minutes away by car,” said a public servant surnamed Park.

The union is demanding the government and the housing corporation cut prices to 5 million won per pyeong and offer moving expenses.

But Lee Dong-wuk, an official at the Ministry of Public Administration and Security, said there’s no need to rush things.

“There is plenty of time left for the relocation and the ministry will prepare relocation measures quietly to ensure public servants settle down in Sejong City well,” said Lee.


By Kim Mi-ju, Han Eun-hwa [mijukim@joongang.co.kr]
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