Blue House insiders are told to offload real estate

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Blue House insiders are told to offload real estate

The Blue House ordered its high-ranking staff with two or more houses in the overheated Seoul and nearby metropolitan area to own no more than a single house.

The announcement, released Monday by Blue House Chief of Staff Noh Young-min, is part of the government’s campaign to cool down real estate prices.

“Chief of Staff Noh has stressed the need of Blue House high-ranking officials to lead by example,” said Yoon Do-han, Blue House senior secretary for public communication.

The measure came as more former Blue House staff and top government officials have been accused of real estate profiteering, a cardinal sin for a liberal administration in Korea.

The civic group Citizens’ Coalition for Economic Justice last Wednesday claimed that the value of properties owned by officials from the current Blue House has risen an average 300 million won ($256,000) in the last three years.

The civic group claimed that the value of apartments and “officetels” (units in buildings used for both commercial and residential purposes) owned by 65 incumbent and former Blue House staffers as of January 2017 was valued at 820 million won on average, which rose roughly 40 percent to 1.14 billion won as of last month.

The top 10 properties by value owned by Blue House staff were worth an average of 2.7 billion won last month, a 52 percent hike from 930 million won in January 2017.

The property that saw the sharpest increase was owned by Kim Soo-hyun, former Blue House policy chief. His property’s value surged 116 percent since January 2017, or 1.04 billion won.

Ju Hyeon, former Blue House secretary for small and medium enterprises, saw the sharpest increase by value, 1.38 billion won.

Kim Eui-kyeom, former presidential spokesperson, offered to resign earlier this year after coming under fire for allegedly engaging in speculative real estate investment, considered shady in Korea for politicians.

This month, Kim sold his controversial property in Heukseok-dong in southern Seoul for over 3 billion won, although he pledged to donate any profit he made, which reportedly amounted to around 800 million won, to charity.

The Moon government has been criticized for its failure to prevent rising apartment prices.

Since June 2017, a month after Moon took office, there have been 18 measures to cool off the real estate market introduced.

BY LEE HO-JEONG [lee.hojeong@joongang.co.kr]

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