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[Editorial] Roh Administration’s Undeniable Real Estate Debacle

[Editorial] Roh Administration’s Undeniable Real Estate Debacle

Posted September. 19, 2007 08:02,   


The Roh administration promised to build one million public housing units by 2012. The administration embarked on that project in 2003 in earnest, and has been steadily building apartment units. The public, however, has shown a lukewarm reaction to the plan. A slow local economy and a dwindling population have left a considerable portion of the completed units unoccupied. As of May 2007, more than 50% of the apartments remain empty; many of which have been constructed in rural areas such as Taebaek and Samcheok cities in Gangwon Province, Jeongpyeong County in N. Chungcheong Province, and Wanju and Imshil counties in N. Jeolla Province. Employing his typical denying and blaming tactics, Roh attributes the failure to the newspapers that pointed out the problem.

The Ministry of Construction and Transportation confessed the failure of the plan in a May internal memo. The ministry worried, “The high vacancy rate should be addressed promptly. If the problem continues, the public will decry its failure as a waste of tax money, demanding someone to be held accountable.” It continued to propose a more thorough review of the project to prevent a further fiasco. In a nutshell, the ministry stressed the need for a “preemptive” measure through acknowledgement to contain the burgeoning criticism.

The “mea culpa” attitude turned 180 degrees and became hostile when the Dong-A Ilbo reported the details of the internal memo on July 3, highlighting the increasing vacancy rate of the public housing that was built. The ministry rebutted its own memo, and alleged that only less than 5% of the units were vacant. Cheong Wa Dae, or South Korea’s “White House,” also chipped in, defining the article as ungrounded.

President Roh, however, admitted his real estate policy failure through his own mouth, publicly saying late last year, “I know our [real estate] policy was erroneous. That was my biggest mistake.” Swallowing his own words back, however, Roh began to hype his real estate policy again as skyrocketing real estate prices began to slow down from earlier this year. Most experts define Roh’s policy as the worst in history, even after acknowledging the hyped-up achievements as true as he alleged. They point to the enormous waste of resources and the economic chaos caused by his policy. All fingers other than those of Roh point to his administration as the culprit for the total failure.