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(EDITORIAL from Korea Times on Aug. 12)

All News 07:19 August 12, 2020

Too optimistic view

President Moon Jae-in got it right when he prioritized housing as his administration's top issue in a senior secretariat meeting at Cheong Wa Dae, Monday. The President replaced three of his senior secretaries amid controversy over ownership of multiple homes, as he vowed to realize "residential justice."

He may also be right when he said that South Korea's property taxes, while having increased, are still lower than other advanced countries. Whether it is a correct assessment, or wishful thinking, when he mentioned that the multiple government measures were slowly having an effect is another matter.

The average price of an apartment in Seoul has risen 52 percent in the past three years during which the administration has put forth 23 sets of real-estate measures. The recent passage of three laws related to renting apartments has been hiking up the price of the uniquely Korean rental system of "jeonse." The President was joined in his defense of the real estate policies by FInance Minister Hong Nam-ki who called a press conference to do so.

The administration's well-meaning intentions to protect real estate consumers and terminate speculation must realistically reflect people's rightful desire to own and live in good housing to be effective. There may well be a reason that some members of the public in Nowon-gu, northern Seoul, and Yeouido are taking to the streets to protest the real-estate measures.

The onslaught of 23 sets of measures has already overwhelmed the public. Yet, in a worrisome signal, the President has said the government is considering setting up a separate watchdog to regulate the market. The ministry concerned, the Ministry of Land, Transport and Infrastructure, has said that nothing has been determined. Creating yet another administrative layer in the form of a watchdog may not be what the Korean housing market needs at this point.
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