The house they live in

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The house they live in

The author is a political and international planning team reporter of the JoongAng Ilbo.

A man owns a 164.25 square-meter (1,768 square foot) apartment in Sunae-dong, Bundang-gu, Seongnam. There is a subway station connected to a department store right in front of the complex. The complex has an elementary school and is adjacent to Bundang Central Park. A unit of the same size in the complex was sold for 2.1 billion won ($1.8 million) in March.

Another man lives in a 174.55 square-meter apartment in Gwanghwamun, central Seoul. There are two subway stations, Gyeongbokgung and Gwanghwamun, within a four-minute walk. While it is centrally located, there are elementary and middle schools within 700 meters. The apartment has four rooms and two bathrooms with a dressing room. The latest sale price was 1.9 billion won.

Another man lives in a 152.30 square-meter apartment in Sangsu-dong, Mapo-gu, Seoul. It is a single-building apartment but offers a great view of the Han River’s Bam Island, Sogang Bridge and Yeouido. Comedian Park Soo-hong showed his Han River-view apartment here on a variety program. It takes eight minutes on foot to reach Gwangheungchang Station and Sangsu Station. The latest sale price was 1.85 billion won.

The actual owners of these apartments are presidential candidates from the ruling Democratic Party (DP). The first apartment is owned by Gyeonggi Governor Lee Jae-myung, who currently lives in his official residence. The owner of the second apartment is former Prime Minister Lee Nak-yon, and the third apartment is owned by former Prime Minister Chung Sye-gyun, who has ended his presidential bid.

They all pledged an expansion of rental housing during their election campaigns, but none of them live in rentals. The fact that the former and current presidential candidates own apartments valued at some 2 billon won is nothing to be criticized about, but I find it surprising that they don’t know that the rest of society also desires to own their own homes.

According to the National Assembly Budget Office, the Korea Land and Housing Corporation supplied 72,349 units of public rental housing last year, but 12,029 units remain empty as of May 2021. Deposit-based rentals are getting more expensive and are in shortage, but the rental housing “people don’t want to live in” cannot absorb the demand at all. Despite the situation, ruling party candidates only repeat the plan to expand the supply of life-time rental apartments.

“The house you live in, that should have been my house,” read the lyrics from a song by Park Jin-young. Though the original meaning of the song is quite different, I still think it represents how those who don’t own homes feel about the DP candidates.
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