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Senior presidential aides offer to resign, but draw ridicule and attacks from opposition

President Moon Jae-in and chief of staff Noh Young-min (left). (Yonhap)
President Moon Jae-in and chief of staff Noh Young-min (left). (Yonhap)

Recent offers to resign by top presidential aides have presented another major hurdle for the Moon Jae-in administration, resulting in ridicule from the public and harsher attacks from the opposition bloc.

On Friday, six of President Moon’s top aides offered to resign, including chief of staff Noh Young-min, over the growing controversy surrounding the government’s real estate policies.

The other senior officials who offered to resign are Yoon Do-han, in charge of public communication; Kim Jo-won, responsible for civil affairs; Kim Geo-sung, responsible for civil society; Kim Oe-sook, who deals with personnel management; and senior secretary for political affairs Kang Gi-jung.

While a senior Cheong Wa Dae official said Noh and the others had offered to resign to take responsibility for “recent developments,” the main opposition United Future Party has focused on the fact that half of them -- Kim Jo-won, Kim Geo-sung and Kim Oe-sook -- own multiple homes.

On Saturday, United Future Party vice spokesperson Hwang Kyu-hwan called for their resignations to be accepted, and for the removal of Deputy Prime Minister Hong Nam-ki; Minister of Land, Infrastructure and Transport Kim Hyun-mi; and other officials involved in real estate policymaking.

In a statement, Hwang said the presidential aides who offered to resign valued the properties more than their jobs and that if any of them remained in office, Cheong Wa Dae would be admitting that the resignations were just for show.

The move by the senior presidential aides has also prompted speculation that the Moon administration may be losing steam.

Kim Geun-sik, a Kyungnam University professor who heads the United Future Party’s branch for a Seoul constituency, on Sunday compared the move to “abandoning a wrecked ship” and said it could mean Moon was facing “early lame duck” syndrome.

Kim also echoed his party’s claim that the presidential aides had chosen real estate over their jobs. In a Facebook post, he said, “Holding onto homes in Gangnam whose prices will rise for a long time takes priority over holding onto short-lived public jobs.”

Cheong Wa Dae, for its part, has not given any indication of President Moon’s position on the resignations, but it has been reported that most if not all are likely to be accepted in the coming days.

By Choi He-suk (