|Chief of staff Noh Young-min walks with President Moon Jae-in at Cheong Wa Dae, Friday. Noh has been under fire for trying to sell a cheaper home in a provincial area and keeping an expensive one in southern Seoul, while the government is fighting soaring housing prices and speculation. Yonhap|
By Kim Rahn
Political circles are in turmoil over ranking Cheong Wa Dae officials' ownership of multiple homes, which goes against the Moon Jae-in administration's key policy goal to settle the soaring housing prices problem.
Opposition politicians are busy attacking such officials, while ruling Democratic Party of Korea (DPK) members are seeking counterattacks. But to many citizens ― for whom it is almost a dream to own a home in affluent regions ― such offenses and defenses are like the pot calling the kettle black.
The row started last week after the government's June 17 anti-speculation real estate policy failed and housing prices rather jumped. And it was found that many Cheong Wa Dae senior officials owning more than one home have not followed chief of staff Noh Young-min's December recommendation to sell off all their properties, except for their primary residence, to set an example.
Cheong Wa Dae said, Thursday, Noh made the recommendation again and he himself put his home in Cheongju, North Chungcheong Province, up for sale. But he kept his other home in affluent Banpo, Seocho-gu, southern Seoul. The market price of the Cheongju home is about 300 million won ($250,000) and the property in Banpo is worth 1.1 billion won.
Noh's action brought huge criticism that even a top Cheong Wa Dae official held onto the Seocho home when the administration is battling housing price rises, especially in that area.
|Rep. Kwak Sang-do of the main opposition United Future Party / Yonhap|
Then Rep. Kim Nam-kook of the DPK attacked Kwak, saying Kwak himself owns a home in Daegu, where his constituency is, and another one in Seoul's affluent southeastern Songpa-gu, the price of which has hiked by nearly 1 billion won in the last five years owing to a redevelopment plan.
"I'm not even curious why a Daegu-based lawmaker owns an apartment in Songpa," Kim wrote on social media. "If I were you, I wouldn't make a political attack by using profit margins of the President's son; by seeing the skyrocketing price of your apartment, I'd rather try to make a good real estate policy (to prevent such price hikes)."
Jeju Governor Won Hee-ryong also joined the criticism toward the ruling bloc, saying he sold an apartment in Mok-dong, another affluent Seoul district, in 2014 when he made a bid for the governorship, and he now has only one house on Jeju.
However, having many homes or "bragging" of having only one home is very far from the reality of most people in the country, where owning a home requires a lifetime plan and many people sometimes have to give up other life goals such as marriage and having children.
According to the Citizens' Coalition for Economic Justice, 88 among 300 lawmakers of the 21st National Assembly own multiple homes ― 43 in the DPK and 41 in the UFP. Among them, 10 of the DPK and five of the UFP own three or more homes.
Under these circumstances, the people can't expect politicians to come up with real estate policies to lower housing prices. "You have everything. How would you know the situation of the have-nots?" an internet user wrote on a portal site.