An imminent reform is expected to occur across senior aides at South Korean presidential office Cheong Wa Dae as Presidential Chief of Staff Noh Young-min and other five senior officials in charge of state affairs, public affairs, public communication, personnel matters and civic society offered to resign on Friday being held accountable for the recent developments in government policy. It is the first instance where a group of senior officials including presidential chief of staff submitted a letter of resignation at once since the incumbent administration was inaugurated in 2017. If their offer is accepted by South Korean President Moon Jae-in within this week, a next step will be taken to form a new team which leads the administration throughout the latter half of his presidency.
What mainly drove them to resignation must have been growing public outcry and criticism for the recent series of failures in real estate policies. In particular, citizens went beyond expressing their disappointments at the government’s real estate policies to getting enraged by the irresponsible and untrustworthy statements and moves that Presidential Chief of Staff Noh Young-min and senior presidential secretary for civil affairs Kim Jo-won made when dealing with the selling of their multiple homes. The senior presidential secretaries for personnel matters and civic society have not yet sold any of their multiple houses. As such, senior officials at Cheng Wa Dae have contributed to eroding public trust on real estate policy.
However, the main accountability for the failed real estate policies should be held by Minister of Economy and Finance Hong Nam-ki and Minister of Land, Infrastructure and Transport Kim Hyun-mi. In addition, Kim Sang-jo, the chief presidential secretary for policy, and Lee Ho-seong, top economic secretary, are to partly blame for their poor policy coordination. Nevertheless, any of them has not yet offered to resign. The officials in charge of policy making are the main culprit behind the ever increasing house prices and market insecurities. They have only bashed the Gangnam area or one of Seoul’s most expensive districts and strengthened regulation without expanding home supplies over the past three years.
What’s worse, their lack of communication skills and competence was clearly demonstrated by the fact that even ruling party members and local government heads publicly expressed their opposition although the government published as many as 23 sets of policies as if it pushed forward with military operations. Given the status quo, the administration will face greater criticism for failing to find any fundamental solution to the policy failures if it simply replaces some of its senior secretaries who have offered to resign for controversy over their owning of multiple homes and does not go further.
The upcoming reform should not be limited to a mere shift in personnel. Rather than this, more focus should be paid to stepping off the dichotomy of homeowners and tenants. The administration will likely fail to win over the hearts of citizens if it gives major positions exclusively to those who have close connections and side with it without seeking for a new policy direction. Also, it is an undeniable fact that the National Assembly ruled by the ruling Democratic Party of Korea with 176 seats taken by its members unilaterally led the legislation process, only worsening the erosion of public support. As it occupied head positions of all the 18 standing committees and refused to have policy debates, real estate bills were poorly handled to spark public enragement. To make a meaningful and practical reform in senior personnel, the administration should look back at its poor governance skills and carry out fundamental reforms.