Sunday, March 27, 2016

South Korea's 1%

The average net assets of South Korea’s 405 highest-ranking government officials in the executive, legislative and judicial branches stood at around 2.85 billion won ($2.43 million) at the end of last year, according to reports submitted to the Government Public Ethics Committee recently. These officials are in the top 1 percent of the rich in Korea, whose net worth averaged 2.43 billion won, according to an analysis made last year by Professor Kim Nak-nyun of Dongkuk University.

The average asset was 1.33 billion won for 1,813 ranking officials at central and provincial governments, university and college presidents, and regional educational chiefs.  That of 300 lawmakers stood at 3.22 billion won. Excluding the three richest parliamentarians whose net worth ranged between 50 billion won to 100 billion won each, the average wealth of legislators was 1.95 billion won.

The average net worth of 160 high-ranking judges was 2.04 billion won. Korea's per capita gross national income fell last year for the first time in six years and the nation's economic growth rate also dropped to the 2-percent range. Seven or eight out of 10 ranking officials increased their net worth, however. Many of these officials saw their assets grow because of increases in stock and property prices, in what people refer to as the "rich-get-richer, poor-get-poorer" phenomenon. A total of 631 officials, or 27 percent of the total of 2,328 officials who reported changes in their assets, saw their net worth increase by more than 100 million won.

The ranking officials' "real" assets could be larger than the amounts they reported, critics said, because 30 to 40 percent of these officials refused to disclose the assets of their parents, children and grandchildren. The percentage of officials in the administrative branch who refused to give full disclosure of their assets rose to 30.2 percent last year, the highest in five years. The corresponding percentage was even higher among lawmakers, with 39.7 percent refusing to fully reveal their assets. The share of Saenuri Party lawmakers who refused to do so was highest with 45.5 percent.

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