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[Opinion] The Prime Minister’s “Weekend Farm”

Posted September. 15, 2005 08:31,   


German Left Party leader Oskar Lafontaine, the party’s star candidate for the chancellor, is called a “luxury leftist.” He was given the nickname after the press disclosed that he recently enjoyed a luxurious vacation at a $3,700 a week beach hotel in Spain.

Before then, Lafontaine was well known for his harsh criticism on the polarization of society, calling for more welfare policies to save the livelihood of laborers and German economy. Compared to the ruling party or the largest opposition party that is putting everything on this election, he is just a happy populist with an approval rating of as low as 10 percent. When campaigning, he used to poke honest fun at himself and referred to himself as a leftist in a luxurious suit, tie, and underwear.

On the other hand, it is hard to tell how honest Prime Minister Lee Hae-chan is. He doesn’t seem to have audacity of any kind. A vineyard on Daebu Island that he bought in 2002 after paying 165 million won is now full of weeds. In parliamentary confirmation hearings last year, Lee said that he was planning to grow vegetables there. Now he says through the Office of Prime Minister that he was too busy to go there often. His answer was hard to understand because he was not busy and free enough to go golfing when a huge forest fire terrified the whole nation. If he were like Lafontaine, he might have joked about that, saying, “Here comes the busy prime minister!”

It is simple to tell which is real estate investment or speculation. When I do, it would be considered an investment. But when others do, it would be considered speculation. Lee, in the confirmation hearing, said that it was not speculation since he had no intention of selling the land. The Office of Prime Minister also claimed that the land was not purchased for speculation. Lee had even said that windfall income was like a social cancer that plunders the living of ordinary people. But now that his land has doubled in value, how can he explain the land he bought? If the land people purchase is for speculation, how could the land the prime minister purchased be a weekend farm?

Those who Lee insists he is protecting are just ordinary people who would be very pleased to just borrow a five-pyeong weekend farm. The vineyard Lee purchased could produce grapes worth of 20 million won a year. An ordinary person would not be able to afford the luxury to leave such a lucrative vineyard untouched. The real “social cancer” are the policies that pretend to pursue social justice and integration, but exempt the privileged like Lee and integrate nothing but poverty in reality.

Kim Sun-duk, Editorial Writer, yuri@donga.com