President Moon Jae-in posted a message on social media about controversy over his private residence Friday.
He wrote, “Now is an election season, so I understand, but that is enough. It is small-minded and cringeworthy (of the opposition party to raise issue with the residence). ... I can only live on the land but cannot dispose of it because it will have accessory facilities for presidential security. ... We are taking all the procedures lawfully.”
This is a response to the main opposition People Power Party’s call for Moon to return the site of his private residence to farmers after restoring it to farmland.
Moon bought land, including farmland, in Yangsan, South Gyeongsang Province, for his residence after retirement, and changed its use from farmland to a house site.
Farmer groups rallied near a fountain in front of Cheong Wa Dae on Wednesday, demanding the government survey farmland ownership across the country immediately and buy farmland found to be owned by those who are not farmers.
The South Korean Constitution stipulates the “land to the tiller” principle, under which only those who actually do farming can own farmland, but the farmland law exceptionally allows anyone to possess farmland if he or she submits a farming plan and related documents and then implements the plan.
Farmers condemned the exceptional clause as the root cause of farmland speculation and urged the revision of it.
Korea Land and Housing Corp. employees are said to have speculated on farmland in accordance with the clause. Likewise, Moon was able to buy farmland using the clause.
Moon’s social media message sounds like a warning to the opposition party to stop finding fault with his post-retirement residence because “I am building it lawfully.” A ruling party lawmaker loyal to Moon called it the president’s fury.
When it comes to his house, he turns a deaf ear to farmers and gets angry at the opposition party for raising suspicions. And he condemns LH employees harshly for their alleged farmland speculation.
Moon bought 3,774 square meters of land in Yangsan, including farmland, in April last year for the purpose of residing there after retirement, and local authorities changed land use of the farmland to house site in January this year. It took just nine months to change the land use. From the beginning, farming was not the purpose of Moon’s purchase of farmland. Moreover, farmland is cheaper than a house site. The first couple took potential profits from the land purchase.
If an ordinary person bought farmland, it would not have been easy to get government permission to change it into a house site.
Furthermore, it is wrong to say that he cannot dispose of the residence at will because of facilities for presidential security. According to the presidential security law, the maximum period of security service for a former president is 10 years.
It is natural to raise issue because the president is concerned. His purchase of farmland and the change of land use must be scrutinized.
Moon reportedly wrote in a certificate of farmland ownership qualifications submitted to local authorities in Yangsang that he had 11 years of farming experience from 2008 and that his wife, Kim Jung-sook, had zero years of agricultural experience.
According to the certificate, Moon bought the land to plant fruit trees. Cheong Wa Dae says that Moon has cultivated the field in his spare time and that Kim has done so as well.
However, news media have never reported that they sometimes have visited the farmland, which is more than four hours and 10 minutes by car southeast of Seoul, and were cultivating it to comply with the farmland law.
If Cheong Wa Dae is right, Moon did farming when he was a lawmaker, when he was a leader of an opposition party and even as the president of South Korea. How many people would believe that? Farmers say agriculture requires much more effort than that.
LH employees suspected of having speculated in farmland registered themselves as farmers and submitted farming plans as Moon did.
The opposition party urged Cheong Wa Dae to disclose expenses related to Moon’s farming but the presidential office keeps silent. People cannot but suspect. But he gets angry at the party for raising issue with his residence and condemns the LH employees as if they are criminals. People cringe at his fury.