70 pct of ranking officials report increased wealth

Despite a weak economy, seven out of 10 South Korean lawmakers and high-ranking civil servants saw their wealth increase last year from a year earlier thanks mainly to a rise in the value of real estate, data showed Thursday.

Of the nation’s 2,302 senior officials required to disclose their fortunes annually, 1,583, or 69 percent of the total, reported an increase in their assets in 2014, according to data from the government public ethic committees of the National Assembly, administrative and judicial branches.

The asset disclosure is mandatory under the country’s public service ethics act that requires ranking government officials, lawmakers, heads of municipalities, members of local legislatures and senior judges report their personal assets every year to prevent potential corruption and to shore up public servant ethics.

According to the data, the average wealth of the total 2,302 officials stood at 1.53 billion won ($1.4 million) as of the end of 2014, up more than 200 million won from the average 1.32 million won recorded a year earlier.

Gains from higher real estate prices as well as wage savings were the main driving force behind the annual asset increase, according to the public ethic committees’ data.

President Park Guen-hye saw her fortune increase by 336 million on-year to 3.17 billion won, driven by increased loyalty income from her autobiography written in 2007 as well as increased wage saving, according to the data.

The assets of Prime Minister Lee Wan-koo, formerly the floor leader of the ruling Saenuri Party, shrank by 74 million won to

1.24 billion won.

Of the nation’s 292 lawmakers, 239 or 81.8 percent of the total saw their assets increase in 2014 from the previous year. The

percentage was 64.5 percent in 2013.

Three lawmakers — Kim Se-yeon and Park Duk-hyum from the ruling party and opposition New Politics Alliance for Democracy lawmaker Ahn Cheol-soo — reported assets higher than 50 billion won.

Ahn, a tech mogul-turned politician, saw his assets drop to

78.75 billion won as of the end of last year after donating nearly the same amount of money during the year.

The average asset holding of the lawmakers stood at 2.86 billion won.

The average assets of the Park administration’s 16 Cabinet members came to 1.85 billion won while Seoul Mayor Park Won-soon reported a net debt of 780 million, according to the data. (Yonhap)


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