“I humbly accept the criticism of the South Korean public, and I will serve the country with greater responsibility and humility,” said President Moon Jae-in on Wednesday after the by-election ended in the opposition party’s landslide victory. He was conscious that even members of the ruling party cite his stubbornness as the cause of the failure. President Moon, however, failed to elaborate on measures to fix the broken housing market, which triggered the “angry votes.”
Speaking of future plans, Moon said he would focus on delivering what people want such as overcoming the COVID-19 crisis, bringing stability and eliminating corruption in the property market, limiting the cause of the public anger to property speculation by LH employees. Park Young-sun, the mayoral candidate of the Democratic Party of Korea, said she would consider involving private companies in reconstruction and redevelopment projects, which contrasts the government’s public-driven housing initiative, while the ruling party promised to ease regulations around loans for real consumers. These promises should be kept regardless of the election result.
“The framework of housing policies should not change, and the supply of housing is not something that can be done single-handedly by local authorities.” said Hong Nam-ki, Minister of Economy and Finance, confirming that the government will maintain the public-driven approach. His remarks also allude to the possibility of hindering the efforts of Seoul Mayor Oh Se-hun of the People Power Party to ease reconstruction and redevelopment regulations if they conflict with policy goals of the government although he emphasized the importance of cooperation between the central government and local authorities. However, the public no longer has faith in the government’s housing policy framework, and, therefore, the government should go back to square one and review its policies again.
Mayor Oh’s election promises such as promoting private-led reconstruction and redevelopment projects and easing the limit on apartment floors can stabilize housing prices by increasing the supply in the city. However, they can also increase instability because they can reduce the number of low-rise houses while increasing the number of movers. He should not push ahead with reconstruction and redevelopment just to “erase Park Won-soon’s achievements” or as a protest against the government if he does not have concrete plans. Oh should consider all this and work together with the central government to devise detailed plans that can minimize any side effects.
The government and the ruling party and the Seoul Metropolitan Council should not forget the “apologies for housing policies,” which the party leadership offered during the election. It will have to pay heftier prices if it would not let go of housing policies that resulted from arbitrary interpretation of what the public want.