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[Opinion] Cooking the Books

Posted June. 22, 2006 03:06,   


China has emerged as the fourth largest economy in the world following the U.S, Japan, and Germany. But there are still many people who downplay China, citing the low credibility of Chinese statistics. Local Chinese government officials are notorious for doctoring statistics. They exaggerate the good statistics and downsize the bad ones. The central government also manipulates statistics as it pleases, making them unreliable.

The Roh administration is also losing the support of the public because of erroneous statistics. The president did not hesitate to make an absurd remark saying, “Gangnam students now dominate Seoul National University (one of the most prestigious universities in Korea). Some 60 percent of SNU students are from Gangnam area (the most affluent districts in Seoul).” The ridiculous comment is the result of being obsessed with his political intention. When the public asked for some evidence for the remark, the president replied, “The statistics was about the 53 students who passed the special admission screening for students with overseas experience.” The president’s remark is nothing different from saying, “Considering the fact that Roh sent his son overseas to study, everybody in the Roh administration seems to send their children to study in foreign countries.”

The Ministry of Government Affairs and Home Affairs and other offices cooked up the statistics related to real estate. The ministry made claims such as, “Seventy-one percent of the Koreans own not a plot of land. The top one percent of the total population owns 51 percent of the private land.” The claims probably helped provoking anger of the majority and dividing the public. But these statistics are wrong. The government failed to discern between individuals and households when making the claims. It will be impossible for the current administration to push ahead with their real estate policies since its credibility is marred by wrong statistics.

Worse yet, the Roh administration seems to ignore the basic principles of survey in order to produce “fake public opinions.” For example, the surveys on the Ministry of Finance and Economy website do not ask age or vocation of survey takers. Respondents also can make duplicate submission. The samples, therefore, cannot represent the public. For the past three years, forty percent of the government agencies have been using those unreliable data in discussing new policies and exercised 312 of them, pretending as if the data shows what the public wants. It seems that the government is being quite unilateral.

Kim Chung-shik, Editorial Writer, skim@donga.com