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Three Presidential Contenders Hold Debate

Posted May. 08, 2007 07:46,   


Korea’s three major presidential hopefuls made comments about various issues in a debate on the economy hosted by this newspaper on May 3.

The first topic was the comprehensive real estate tax.

Lee Myung-bak, a former mayor of Seoul and a presidential hopeful of the Grand National Party (GNP), said, “We need to reduce or exempt taxes or offer tax credits for single, long-term or retired homeowners.”

Park Geun-hye, former GNP leader and another presidential hopeful of the party, agreed with his remark, saying, “We need to adjust the excessive comprehensive real estate tax. In that sense, the capital gains tax for single and long-term homeowners needs to be cut.”

Sohn Hak-gyu, a former governor of Gyeonggi Province and a presidential contender, differed from their opinions, however, saying, “In regards to housing issues, the public’s confidence in government policies is very important. Regardless of government change, the principle of the comprehensive real estate tax and capital gains tax must remain intact.”

Tax credit policies and easing corporate regulations were the second point at issue.

Former mayor Lee said, “We should think about lowering corporate taxes and take a cautious approach to inheritance taxes as we consider maintaining the fairness of the economy. Investment caps for large companies must be cut or eliminated.”

Former leader Park said, “I contemplate offering a grace period or reducing the inheritance tax on family–owned small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). But more consideration is required for inheritance taxes on conglomerates. Investment caps for large companies must be abolished immediately.”

Former governor Sohn argued against a phased reduction in corporate taxes and for a prompt reduction of investment caps for large companies

In respect to capping prices of apartment units and disclosing prices, Mr. Lee said, “The government can intervene in public housing for ordinary people as a means for public welfare. But the market for private housing and middle- and large-sized housing units should be untouched." Ms. Park and Mr. Sohn showed similar opinions, saying “Construction costs for public apartment projects should be disclosed. But private ones should not be regulated.”

As to the approval of the FTA talks in the National Assembly, Lee said, “The issue ought to be dealt with for the national interest after considering economic benefits and losses.” Park said, “The agreement must pass the National Assembly as soon as possible.” Sohn agreed with Park, saying, “The FTA has to be ratified by lawmakers within this year.”

Three contenders have different viewpoints about granting pardons to businesspeople too easily. The former mayor said, “I think we could give pardons to owners whose businesses go bankrupt even though they try not to." However, the former GNP leader said, “We must limit the president’s rights to pardon in the case of crimes by the privileged and establish the rule of law.” And the former governor said, "Citing economic recovery as an excuse for pardoning criminals is against the rule of law.”