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(EDITORIAL from Korea Times on March 31)

Editorials from Korean dailies 07:06 March 31, 2021

Exit of presidential policy chief
: Moon administration should go all-out to restore public trust

President Moon Jae-in moved quickly to replace Kim Sang-jo, his top policy chief, Monday. The presidential move came less than 24 hours after the media reported that Kim raised rental deposits on an apartment he was renting out in southern Seoul by 14.1 percent just two days before new laws went into effect to limit such increases to a maximum of 5 percent.

Kim reportedly offered to step down on Monday morning. The chief executive's acceptance of Kim's resignation without delay seemed to reflect his concerns that the incident would add fuel to public discontent about rocketing rents and housing prices. The scandal was also feared to adversely affect the April 7 mayoral by-elections in Seoul and Busan, and further erode the already weakened people's trust in the government's housing policy.

Kim's exit appeared to be inevitable in many ways. Whatever the reason might be, a ranking Cheong Wa Dae official should not have hiked the rental deposit so sharply a couple of days before the new ceiling went into effect. The damage might have been less severe had Kim not been the official leading the Moon administration's real estate policy. Many Koreans cannot help but feel disappointed and betrayed by Kim's act.

The government and the governing party are now in deep trouble due to property speculation scandals involving public officials, including several dozen employees of the state-run housing developer, the Korea Land and Housing Corp. (LH). The key reason is people's stinging perception that officials in the liberal government are little different from their conservative predecessors by putting personal interests before the public good.

"Our real estate policy cannot escape the harsh estimation of the public for now," President Moon told a meeting at Cheong Wa Dae later in the day. Moon then called for his aides to show strong determination to use the ongoing crisis as the final opportunity to reverse the public's assessment of their real estate policy. We also hope Kim's exit will be the starting point for the government to restore lost public trust in property policy and re-establish public officials' work ethics.
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