A responsible retirementPresident Lee Myung-bak has canceled a controversial plan to build his post-retirement residence in a wealthy district of southern Seoul on a plot of land purchased under his son’s name. Now, however, the president is reportedly planning to return to his old house in a district nearby.
This latest fiasco, however, has already left citizens who once applauded Lee’s decision to donate 33 billion won ($28.5 million) to the state with a bitter taste.
Although the fiasco is now settled in administrative terms, it nevertheless serves as a reminder of the administration’s problems. Above all, the president, his family and the Blue House still demonstrate a sentiment sharply detached from the general public - even after three years and eight months in office.
The question of where a former commander-in-chief will live after retiring is not simply a matter of finding a post-presidential home. It has political implications.
Yet Lee’s family and the Presidential Security Service have engaged in suspicious actions that could create a misunderstanding among the public.
The method used to purchase the land, which is in the names of Lee’s son and the Presidential Security Service, appears to be an attempt to obscure its real owner.
The junior Lee’s purchase of the plot of land, at a much lower price than the government paid for another plot of land nearby, also fuels suspicion, as it could be construed as an attempt by the government to reduce the cost to Lee’s son.
The younger Lee purchased the plot for approximately 1.12 billion won - despite the fact that he does not make a large salary and does not plan to live there - which seems to defy common sense. That’s why it raises suspicions that Lee is trying to dodge inheritance laws or make a real estate investment using state funds.
The primary responsibility for this whole mess falls on the shoulders of President Lee. It does not make any sense that the president would be unaware of the land purchase from the beginning. And even if he entrusted the purchase to his aides and assigned all the details to his security office, he should have acted in more responsible way.
To the public, it just looks like a selfish move designed to put the president in one of the wealthiest districts in Seoul.
Returning to his old nest may be a fine decision, but first we call on the president to enter his retirement living within his means.