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[Newsmaker] Park’s team in hot seat over tax plan

Attention is being paid to whether President Park Geun-hye will replace her economic policymakers who devised a much-criticized tax code revision, after having already ordered a review of the proposal to contain the fallout. Speculation persists in political circles that Park could conduct a partial Cabinet reshuffle in the third quarter of the year to ease public anger.

Some politicians started to call for the resignation of Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Hyun Oh-seok and senior presidential economic adviser Cho Won-dong.

Aside from opposition parties, even some lawmakers of the ruling Saenuri Party say that Hyun and Cho should be held accountable for incurring public anger over the government’s taxation policy.
Cho Won-dong (The Korea Herald)
Cho Won-dong (The Korea Herald)

The proposed revision to the 2013 tax code, unveiled by the Finance Ministry last Thursday, sparked a backlash from a variety of sectors, as the change would raise the tax burden of the middle-income bracket from next year.

Rep. Cho Won-jin of the Saenuri Party said Tuesday that the present economic policy team was ill-equipped to deal with the current global economic difficulties.

“Not to be a burden to President (Park Geun-hye), I demand the early resignation of Minister Hyun Oh-seok and senior adviser Cho Won-dong,” he said in a party policy meeting.

While there had been criticism among ruling party lawmakers of the senior economic policymakers, this marked the first time that a call for their resignation came from an official gathering of the Saenuri Party.

Saenuri Rep. Yoo Ki-june said that senior adviser Cho, in particular, should be sacked immediately, denouncing Cho’s remarks that angered taxpayers.

The presidential adviser had sought to placate middle-income earners by arguing that “collecting more taxes could be likened to extracting goose down without causing pain.”

According to the original tax revision, one in four salaried workers in Korea, or some 4.3 million people, would see their income tax burden increase from 2014.

Some financial market insiders raised the possibility that Hyun or Cho had already expressed their willingness to quit to the president.

By Kim Yon-se (kys@heraldcorp.com)
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