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[Editorial] A tale of two lawmakers

Yun offered to resign over father’s speculation suspicions; Kim denies allegations involving himself

Rep. Yun Hee-suk, a rising lawmaker of the main opposition People Power Party, offered to give up her parliamentary seat and presidential bid over suspicions that her father violated the farmland law in the past.

The suspicions are part of the results of the Anti-Corruption and Civil Rights Commission’s investigation into real estate transactions involving opposition parties.

Yun, a political rookie, said resigning is the way for her to keep faith with her supporters and to do what is right as a daughter because she has “called for politics of honor and common sense.”

Yun said she feared her father’s suspected speculation would give the ruling party a pretext to make fun of, hurting the opposition’s chances for a change of government.

She has sharply criticized the current regime’s backfired real estate policies and the hypocrisy shown by those in power who have speculated in real estate surreptitiously while condemning speculators in public.

Her father bought farmland in Sejong in 2016 but had someone else cultivate it, which is a violation of the farmland law that requires farmland owners to till their farmland directly.

The party leaders judged she had nothing to do with her father’s farmland deal, and did not discipline her.

She said she knows nothing about her father’s economic activity after she was taken off the family register when she got married 26 years ago.

If what she says is true, it would be unfair to hold her responsible for what her father did. Her father bought the farmland when she was not a lawmaker. The guilt-by-association system is long repealed.

Nevertheless, she apologized and declared intent to resign as a lawmaker. It is a rare sight among politicians on both sides of the aisle. Her declaration to quit over dubious allegations is a fresh shock.

No lawmaker but Yun has offered to resign over suspicions raised by the ACRC. The ruling Democratic Party of Korea suggested 10 lawmakers should leave the party voluntarily, but they remain. The party expelled two proportional representation lawmakers. Though they were expelled, however, they retain their parliamentary seats as independents sympathetic with the ruling party. The PPP suggested five lawmakers leave the party, expelled one and decided not to discipline six including Yun.

Yun’s offer to resign stands in contrast to other lawmakers who stick to their parliamentary seats despite suspicions.

The commission said that a lawmaker of the minor Open Democratic Party had used insider information in real estate speculation. It did not disclose the name of the lawmaker, but the lawmaker turned out to be Rep. Kim Eui-kyeom who denied the suspicion voluntarily.

As President Moon’s spokesman, Kim bought a building in a redevelopment project area for 2.57 billion won ($2.2 million) in July 2018. He borrowed 1.6 billion won, more than half of the building price. He was found to have partially fabricated loan documents.

At that time, the Moon regime targeted reconstruction and redevelopment as the hotbed of speculation and unveiled a series of regulations against them. Nonetheless, the Cheong Wa Dae spokesman who spent most of his career as a journalist bet almost all he had on the building. It would be hard to do so without good confidence that it will return much more. This is where he is suspected of using undisclosed information.

A week after he bought the property, the Seoul mayor mentioned a master plan to redevelop Yongsan and Yeouido, driving up land prices of nearby areas including the site of the building.

He sold the building for 3.45 billion won in December 2019, a year and five months after purchasing it. The margin amounted to 880 million won. This could hardly be coincidental.

As a journalist, he criticized the surge of apartment prices. But as Cheong Wa Dae spokesperson, he took a big risk of taking out so much debt that ordinary people would not dare to.

He joined the DP’s sister party that would consist only of proportional representation lawmakers, and became a lawmaker after all.

It looks unlikely that Kim will leave politics as Yun did. Voters are watching the different steps taken by the two lawmakers. It is not hard to guess whom they would support.

By Korea Herald (koreaherald@heraldcorp.com)
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