The previous Moon Jae-in administration allegedly tampered with government statistics for housing and other economic data, Korea’s Board of Audit and Inspection (BAI) found.
Following the state audit agency’s announcement, President Yoon Suk Yeol’s office denounced the Moon government for “manipulating government statistics to deceive the public,” calling for a thorough investigation and corrective actions.
“We have confirmed that the presidential office [of the previous Moon administration] and the Land Ministry engaged in illegal activities by pressuring Statistics Korea and the Korea Real Estate Board to manipulate data and distort the statistical narrative,” said Choi Dal-young, first deputy secretary general of the BAI, during a press briefing on Friday.
The state audit agency requested that the prosecution investigate 22 former top officials from the Moon administration, including the previous chiefs of policy, the minister of land, infrastructure and transport and the commissioner of Statistics Korea.
Seven additional officials suspected of criminal offenses were also referred to investigators.
The audit was carried out by 28 BAI auditors from last September to March this year.
According to the BAI, the Moon administration exerted undue pressure on the Korea Real Estate Agency to manipulate data at least 94 times.
Whereas weekly housing price data should be compiled over a week and made public a day after the compilation is done, Jang Ha-sung, former presidential policy chief, allegedly demanded the real estate agency share midweek figures and hand in the data on the day the compilation was completed.
Sharing statistical data before the report is made public is against the statistics law.
The Moon administration had also pressured the real state agency to provide an explanation when the final data for the week was higher than midweek figures, according to the BAI, which led the agency to report midweek figures based purely on speculations.
This resulted in distorted statistical data. The Korea Real Estate Agency’s data suggested that the housing price in Seoul increased 19.5 percent over five years since May 2017, while KB Land, a private real estate statistics provider, found the figure to be 62.2 percent.
Such illegal conduct continued under the three policy chiefs that came after Jang, the BAI suggested.
The Moon administration’s officials were also accused of tampering with other key economic indicators such as the employment rate and income distribution data by adding undue weight to certain data sets and modifying the statistics agency’s press release in order to validate the administration’s economic policy of “income-driven growth.”
A source from the Yoon government’s presidential office reportedly told the local news agency Yonhap on Sunday that “if the government were an incorporated company, such misdeeds would be seen as deceiving not only the Korean public, who are the shareholders of the country, but also its overseas counterparts and the global market.”
BY SHIN HA-NEE [firstname.lastname@example.org]