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(LEAD) Finance minister pledges utmost efforts to do his job after resignation offer was rejected

All News 14:44 November 04, 2020

(ATTN: UPDATES with more info from 5th para; ADDS photos)

SEOUL, Nov. 4 (Yonhap) -- Finance Minister Hong Nam-ki vowed Wednesday he will do his best to perform his duties in sync with the president after his resignation offer over a taxation issue was rejected.

"In conformity with the intention of the personnel authority, I will do my utmost to do my official duties as a deputy prime minister," Hong said during the parliamentary budget and accounts committee's interpellation session.

"As parliament kicks off its review of the (2021) budget bill, I will do my best to sincerely respond to (lawmakers') questions," said the finance minister, who doubles as a deputy prime minister for economy.

A day earlier, Hong tendered his resignation right after a weekly Cabinet meeting at the presidential compound, holding himself accountable for a recent rift between his ministry and the ruling Democratic Party over setting the standard for levying stock transfer taxes. President Moon Jae-in instantly turned down Hong's offer to resign, however.

Finance Minister Hong Nam-ki speaks during the parliamentary budget and accounts committee's interpellation session on Nov. 4, 2020. (Yonhap)

The minister's action drew criticism from opposition lawmakers as well as some members of the ruling Democratic Party, who accused Hong of breaking ranks with the ruling bloc.

Rep. Choo Kyung-ho of the main opposition People Power Party, who is a member of the budget committee, labeled the episode "a political show based on a sloppy scenario," calling for an apology by the finance minister.

Hong expressed "grave regret" over the opposition's criticism, saying his resignation offer was "sincere."

Hong's ministry had pushed to bring down the bar on taxing major shareholders of listed firms.

Currently, an individual or entity holding shares worth 1 billion won (US$880,436) or more in a single listed firm is classified as a major shareholder, required to pay stock transfer taxes under the income tax law.

Hong's ministry had sought to lower the cap to 300 million won, effective from next year, triggering a clash with the DP, which was pushing to keep it at the current level to avert a possible market backlash.

The ministry finally announced Tuesday that the threshold will be kept at the current 1 billion won.

Appearing in the same interpellation session, Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun tried to defuse the controversy surrounding Hong's resignation offer.

"The president sent back (Hong's designation offer) after judging that it's not something the deputy prime minister has to take responsibility for and he needs to continue with his post (to deal with) pending issues, such as the budget bill's review," Chung said.

The prime minister added that "the issue has been settled for now."

Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun speaks during the parliamentary budget and accounts committee's interpellation session on Nov. 4, 2020.

pbr@yna.co.kr
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