July 23, 2020 13:47
New reports earlier this week said Kim Jo-won, the senior presidential secretary for civil affairs, will be replaced just one year after he was appointed. Presidential Chief of Staff Noh Young-min had instructed all top Cheong Wa Dae officials who own multiple homes to sell them, but Kim kept his own apartments in the affluent Gangnam and Songpa districts in southern Seoul. This led to speculation that he would be fired for failing to fall in line, and Cheong Wa Dae did not deny it. Unlike other officials, Kim did not say what he intended to do with his residential properties, whose value increased W1.1 billion during the three years of the Moon Jae-in administration (US$1=W1,198).
The next day, there was another report saying that Kim will be keeping his job after finally agreeing to sell one of his expensive apartments. The veracity of the report is uncertain, but Cheong Wa Dae did not deny it either. If it is true, Cheong Wa Dae could be accused of essentially selling positions. Is that ethical?
It was wrong for Kim to insist on keeping his apartments. It is not illegal for public servants to own as many homes as they like, but a presidential secretary who does not agree with the government policy he trumpets needs to leave the government. If he insists on retaining both his assets and position, it is tempting to suspect that he is owed a favor.
Now it looks like Cheong Wa Dae promotions and demotions are determined not only by a person's merits but also by how many apartments he or she owns. The ruling Minjoo Party even tabled a bill seeking to have public servants who own multiple homes and fail to sell some of them within 60 days face up to five years in jail or a maximum W50 million fine. The government's whole failed real-estate policy has gone beyond farce and must end.
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