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[Editorial] Real Estate Speculator as Minister?

Posted September. 21, 2009 08:49,   


The allegation that Gender Equality Minister-nominee Baek Hee-young owned several homes slated for reconstruction cannot be overlooked. She bought a 71.16-square meter apartment in Seoul’s Ichon district for 200 million won (165,300 U.S. dollars) in 2006. The unit was later reconstructed as a high-end apartment measuring 100.92 square meters and its standard price shot up to 862 million won (712,800 dollars).

In June 2001, Baek bought a 39.6-square meter unit in a low-rise apartment building in Seoul’s Sangdo district for 90 million won (74,420 dollars). The building was later rebuilt and the unit’s area was expanded to 84.7 square meters in 2003. She sold the home for 450 million won (372,120 dollars) in September that year, reaping four times her investment. She also bought a 142.5-square meter apartment in Seoul’s Mok district for 380 million won (314,200 dollars) in Dec. 2000, then later sold it at the same price 46 days after her purchase. The standard price was 472 million won (390,310 dollars) but she wrote 184 million won (152,150 dollars).

Baek initially denied evading taxes but after main opposition Democratic Party lawmaker Park Eun-soo said she wrote the lower price in the contract, Baek later apologized, “There was a mistake. I am sorry,” Baek said. In addition, she bought and leased a studio apartment in Seoul’s Bongcheon district in Dec. 2005, and secured the right to buy a unit of a for-profit hotel on Jeju Island in 2006 and sold it last year.

Some say Baek’s real estate dealings are basic examples of successful investment. Clouds are also forming over her eldest son’s military service. He was deemed overweight and within 45 days, his history of mental disease was recognized. He thus got to perform public service instead of going to the Army. Baek also refused to unveil related documents on this citing privacy.

A person who has been obsessed with real estate speculation probably lacks the ethics and morals needed to be a minister, let alone the suspicions surrounding her son’s military service. If a person suspected of real estate speculation is named to a post that is supposed to protect the rights of hardworking women, the administration will tarnish its own principle of “noblesse oblige” that it has emphasized.