A critical lack of morality
The same old stories of false resident registration and illegal inheritance played out during confirmation hearings for the five ministerial candidates. But what angers the public most during this time of worsening youth unemployment are the advantages the children of the elite have enjoyed thanks to the positions of their parents.
One daughter of Lee Joon-sik, former vice president of Seoul National University who has been nominated as deputy prime minister for social affairs and education minister, took out an interest-free student loan of 27.39 million won ($22,655) from a scholarship program run by the Teachers’ Pension to attend a local university. Normal kids usually pay 7 percent interest on student loans. She also received family health insurance coverage eligible only for Korean citizens for a year after she renounced her Korean citizenship to become a U.S. citizen. Lee also paid 2.71 million in deferred real estate taxes just before his confirmation hearing.
The eldest son of ruling Saenuri Party Rep. Kang Eun-hee, who had been named to lead the Ministry of Gender, Equality and Family, was exempted from regular military service and instead placed at an IT company. At the time, lawmaker Kang was chair of the Korea IT Business Women’s Association. Her second son also took an annual leave of 80 days during his military service, double that permitted to normal soldiers.
The eldest daughter of Joo Hyung-hwan, vice minister of strategy and finance named to head the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy, worked as an intern at the state-funded Global Green Growth Institute for two months and was paid 2.99 million won. She landed the internship in 2011 upon graduating from an American university, despite there being no formal placement notice. Joo had been chairing the presidential committee of the Green Growth Committee at the time.
Nominees for high-profile government positions under the incumbent President Park Geun-hye have been laden with so many disastrous scandals that these commonplace wrongdoings and ethnical flaws could be overlooked. But the privileges customarily bestowed upon the offspring of the elite class is demoralizing for the general public, especially when so many young people are frustratingly rejected from jobs despite their hard work. How can we trust the ministers in charge of education, social, and economic affairs to create a fairer society while they ensure their children enjoy all life’s privileges? JoongAng Ilbo, Jan. 11, Page 30