South Korean President Moon Jae-in is known to be preparing to award himself and his wife the Grand Order of Mugunghwa, the highest order awarded by the government of Korea, triggering controversy over the justification of the award amidst accelerating number of confirmed COVID-19 cases as well as high cost of up to 68 million won per award.
According to government sources on Monday, the Ministry of Interior and Safety made two sets of the Grand Order of Mugunghwa last year. “The sets had been created in September by the Korea Minting and Security Printing Corporation. We will take steps for the awarding, tabling the agenda at the Cabinet Meeting, after we receive contact from the Blue House. Korean commendation laws stipulate that the award is the highest order awarded by the Government of Korea, which can be awarded to the spouse of the President, head, and spouse of head of an allied country.
It is known that it takes 68.24 million won in production costs for the award, which is made up of gold, silver, rubies, and amethysts. A total of 136.47 million won of budget was spent to create two sets.
Production costs of the same award given to former President Lee Myung-bak in 2013 was around 50 million won, but production costs rose 40% due to higher gold prices. Former President Park Geun-hye received the award, which cost around 40 million won due to smaller size as awards for female recipients were designed smaller back then. Changes were made to the law in 2016, applying the same size and specifications for women and men recipients, resulting in 50% higher production costs for President Moon and the First Lady compared to other former recipients. Production costs of the award had been subject to controversy, amounting to 40 times higher than the Order of Merit for National Foundation, which was awarded to patriot An Jung-gun and costs 1.72 million won in production.
There has been continued public controversy over the significance of the award, given that the award can be received by incumbent presidents. Up until former President Kim Dae-jung, the award was given upon inauguration, which was changed by former President Roh Moo-hyun when he changed it to the end of term saying that the award would be given in recognition of five years of serving public service. Former President Lee Mount-bak had also decided to self-award the recognition at the end of his term.
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