The rules should apply to everyoneThe ruling Democratic Party (DP) apologized for allegations made against Yang Jung-suk, who earned a proportional representative seat in the National Assembly as a part of the DP’s satellite Citizens Party. The DP asked her to resign. DP spokesman Song Kap-seok said that the party had looked into her past and raised a red flag and the Citizens Party also asked her to withdraw her candidacy before the election.
Spokesman Song’s comment suggests that the leadership of the ruling party and its satellite party had doubts about her wrongdoings but, nevertheless, she continued to run. Yang reported 9.2 billion won ($7.5 million) in personal wealth, more than double the 4.3 billion won four years ago. An apology is not enough. There must be thorough investigation into the procedure of the nomination.
Yang is accused of trying to evade taxes by registering her properties under the names of her relatives. Moreover, she is wealthy through real estate, which the government and ruling party strongly condemn. She owns three apartment units in posh Gangnam neighborhoods and five buildings across Seoul and Bucheon. Last year, the ruling party floor leader suggested that candidates running in the April 15 parliamentary elections pledge not to own houses to amass wealth and sell residential properties that they do not actually live in. At that time, the Blue House asked presidential staff to dispose of any extra homes they did not reside in.
According to the latest data from the civil servants ethics committee, one out of three people working in the presidential office with a title higher than secretary own more than one home. Their homes are valued at more than 300 million won on average. Ten of them even saw their apartment values jump 1 billion won.
Public officials have the right to own multiple properties and they should not be forced to undersell just because they are employed by the state. But, the government cannot ask the public to not invest in homes for returns if its employees do not show an example.
President Moon Jae-in repeatedly vowed he would solve real estate problems no matter what. There are some voices within the DP calling for banning home ownership beyond residential purpose. How can such an argument draw support if senior government officials and legislators illegally own several homes? Such discrepancy can stoke public distrust in policy and political apathy.
JoongAng Ilbo, April 30, Page 30