70 pct of govt, elected officials report rise in wealth in 2015: data

March 25, 2016
(Yonhap)

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

SEOUL (Yonhap) — Government data showed Wednesday that roughly 7 out of 10 lawmakers and high-ranking government officials saw their wealth rise last year from a year earlier mainly due to an increase in the value of real estate.

Of the nation’s 1,813 senior officials required to disclose their wealth annually, 1,352, or 74.6 percent of the total, reported an increase in their assets in 2015, according to data by the Government Public Ethics Committee.

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

The increase was largely attributed to gains in real estate across the country, such as the rise in prices of apartments, and in their personal savings, the committee said.

On average, the wealth of the senior officials came to 1.31 billion won (US$1.12 million) as of the end of last year, showing little change on-year, the data showed.

President Park Geun-hye had assets worth 3.5 billion won last year, up some 350 million won from the previous year, according to the data. Park’s assets increased for the third consecutive year.

The jump was attributed to royalties from her autobiography published back in 2007 and the rise in the value of her house in Samsung-dong in southern Seoul.

Woo Byung-woo, a senior official at Cheong Wa Dae, turned out to be the wealthiest official in the central government with his personal wealth of 3.93 billion won, followed by Chun Hye-kyung, chief of the National Institute of Agricultural Science, with 2.89 billion won.

On average, 51 ministerial-level officials under the Park government held 2.1 billion won in assets last year, with the assets of 41 of them increasing, according to the data.

If lawmakers with over 50 billion won in wealth are excluded from the calculations, the average size of wealth held by lawmakers came to 1.9 billion won, similar to a year earlier.

By party, ruling Saenuri Party lawmakers were found to be wealthier than those from the opposition bloc.

Saenuri Party lawmakers saw their average wealth reach 2.31 billion won, while those from the main opposition Minjoo Party of Korea held 1.3 billion won and the splinter People’s Party 1.9 billion won, the data showed.

Among lawmakers, People’s Party co-chairman Ahn Chul-soo ranked No. 1, with his personal wealth reaching 162.9 billion won.

Meanwhile, 30.1 percent of officials declined to disclose the full extent of their extended wealth that includes family members, according to the data.

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