The Rent is Too Damn High
The author is the deputy economic policy team editor of the JoongAng Ilbo.
“Rent is Too Damn High.” That’s the name of a political party in the United States. The Rent is Too Damn High Party was founded by Jimmy McMillan. The African American founder ran for political office in the 1990s and drew attention with the slogan for the 2010 New York City mayoral race. He once got 0.3 percent of the vote in the mayoral election and expressed his intention to run for president in 2012.
He did a number of eccentric stunts like climbing the Brooklyn Bridge unless television stations interviewed him. In a debate, he puzzled the viewers by claiming that people could afford to pay rent by “working 30 hours a day, 12 days a week.” But he was still popular. The New York Times and other major media focused on him and pointed out one thing: His words and actions were absurd, but it was a fact that the rent was too high and he earned the hearts of the voters, instead of votes.
Numbers are on McMillan’s side. According to this year’s statistics by FortuneBuilders.com, a real estate coaching program, the average monthly rent in major American cities is about 2 million won ($1,691). The average is the highest in San Francisco at $3,500, followed by New York City’s $3,000. In Washington, D.C., an average of $2,260 is paid for rent each month. As the unemployment rate rose by 10.2 percent due to the Covid-19 outbreak as of July, some tenants short of cash are engaging in “cancel rent” protests. Some of them charge rent to credit cards because they do not have cash. Some politicians claim that the monthly rental system should be modified.
Korea is going in the opposite direction. Monthly rent, which was nearly nonexistent before, is increasing. Ruling party figures even argue that it is normal to convert jeonse (long-term deposit-based rentals) to monthly rent. As jeonse does not exist in most countries, English dictionaries list it as “jeonse.” But it is close to becoming obsolete.
In the non-Gangnam area where I reside, it is hard to find an apartment for jeonse. In the near future, landlords may be able to pick tenants who pay one month’s rent as a reward to thank their landlords. In a few years, the Korean version of the Rent is Too Damn High Party will be founded and rule for 50 years. It is not fiction but reality that innocent deposit-based tenants become monthly rental refugees by pursuing mechanical equality. This is the year of the “new normal” in many ways.