Moon holds the key
"I accept the people's censure with heavy heart," said President Moon Jae-in on Thursday, a day after the ruling Democratic Party (DP)'s crushing defeats in the mayoral by-elections in Seoul and Busan. The liberal president promised that his government will do its best to overcome the Covid-19 crisis, revitalize the economy and root out real estate corruption above all. The Blue House and DP did not anticipate such shocking defeats with 20 to 30 percent margins though they had expected defeat in the by-elections
Moon singled out the eradication of real estate corruption as one of the peoples' desperate wishes, without apologizing for his administration's failed policies to stabilize the housing market. That is regrettable. A majority of voters rather expressed their rage over the government's endless real estate fiascoes through their votes. They want the government to admit its mistakes and change course. But they sensed that the government once again attempted to find fault with so-called "past evils" instead of reflecting on its misguided policies.
Deputy Prime Minister for Economic Affairs Hong Nam-ki's remarks prove it. On Thursday morning, Hong, who also serves as finance minister, underscored the need to "maintain the big frame of the government's housing policy, unshakably." Apartments cannot be supplied by local governments alone, he said, effectively effacing new Seoul Mayor Oh Se-hoon's campaign promise to liberalize the housing market.
Despite the liberal administration's 25 sets of real estate measures, home prices soared, and people could not buy an apartment because of suffocating regulations. Allegations about Korea Land and Housing Corp. (LH) employees' speculative investments with inside information fueled voters' outrage. And yet, the government wants to push for its loophole-ridden housing polices regardless of citizens' anger.
The DP's distortion of public sentiment does not stop there. Whenever a problem appears, it blames others. A senior lawmaker of the DP regretted not thoroughly checking a suspicious real estate deal by Mayor Oh's wife's family and then attacked the "biased media" for posing "a serious threat to our democracy" before resigning from his seat in the supreme council. Former Rep. Sohn Hye-won, a DP ally indicted for real estate speculation, claimed that the only way for the DP to survive is to deprive the prosecution of its investigative rights entirely.
The clock is ticking for Moon, with less than a year left in office. If he fails to humbly accept the voters' real demands, the DP cannot extend its reign. Instead, if Moon changes course, including on real estate, the ruling party can win back public support. Moon holds the key.