Cor­rup­tion rife in man­age­ment of apart­ments

JoongAng Daily - - National - BY AHN HYO-SUNG AND YOON JUNG-MIN se­lee@joongang.co.kr

When Mr. Shin found an open­ing as man­ager of an apart­ment com­plex in Gyeonggi late last year, the head of the res­i­dents com­mit­tee of­fered him a quid-pro­quo. The com­mit­tee head would give him the job — if Shin lent him 10 mil­lion won ($9,394).

Shin, a pseu­do­nym, took the deal and the job.

A few months later when the com­mit­tee head asked to bor­row more money, Shin knew he had to come up with it. But short on cash, he had to bor­row 4.5 mil­lion won from a bank.

Last Septem­ber, Shin’s one-year con­tract ex­pired, and he was out of a job.

He was never re­paid his money ei­ther.

This anec­dote was told by Kim Ilam, a coun­selor at the Korea Hous­ing Man­agers As­so­ci­a­tion, who claims he heard the de­tails from the man­ager him­self.

“He said he’d for­get about get­ting his money back and just find another job,” said Kim. Get­ting the au­thor­i­ties in­volved would only back­fire: Shin would prob­a­bly never get another man­ager’s job at an apart­ment build­ing.

“They’re sim­ply afraid,” Kim said. There are more than 50,000 hous­ing man­agers in Korea and they com­pete for 15,000 avail­able jobs. With com­pe­ti­tion like that, it’s pretty common to have to grease some wheels to get a po­si­tion.

The res­i­dents’ com­mit­tees at build­ings have the op­tion of choos­ing their man­agers from a hous­ing man­age­ment company or to hire a free­lancer, of which there are many.

On the flip side, man­agers who have bribed their way into the jobs of­ten try to re­claim the money by em­bez­zling from the apart­ment build­ing by in­flat­ing or in­vent­ing main­te­nance costs.

“Head man­age­ment of­fi­cers who bribe their way up the lad­der are prone to mis­ap­pro­pri­ate res­i­dents’ main­te­nance fees or con­spire with the res­i­dents’ com­mit­tee to find a way to get their money back,” said Choi Yonghwa, an ar­chi­tec­tural en­gi­neer­ing pro­fes­sor of Ky­onggi Univer­sity in Su­won, Gyeonggi, and a mem­ber of the Re­search In­sti­tute of Anti-Fraud and Anti-Cor­rup­tion.

In a coun­try where apart­ment own­ers fear their prop­erty price might drop if their ad­dress ends up in lo­cal news­pa­per head­lines, some res­i­dents keep their mouths shut even after find­ing out about the dirty deals.

Song Ju-yul, head of a group to erad­i­cate cor­rup­tion in the apart­ment com­plex in­dus­try, ar­gues that peo­ple should be aware that prices could fall more dras­ti­cally if cor­rup­tion is al­lowed to con­tinue and get ex­posed later.

But many peo­ple in apart­ment com­plexes are in­dif­fer­ent to ad­min­is­tra­tion mat­ters. Voter turnouts for res­i­dents com­mit­tee elec­tions av­er­age around 10 per­cent.

In or­der to raise that num­ber, ac- count­ing pro­fes­sor Lee Byung-chul of Ky­onggi Univer­sity ad­vises com­mit­tees to al­low early vot­ing or e-vot­ing.

An apart­ment com­plex in Dae­jeon re­port­edly saw its turnout sur­pass 50 per­cent for the first time last year when they put the vot­ing process on the In­ter­net.

Song said the gov­ern­ment should be tougher on ir­reg­u­lar­i­ties in apart­ment com­plexes and es­tab­lish a gov­ern­ment of­fice to deal with the is­sue.

“The Se­cret Be­neath Apart­ment Main­te­nance Bills” (2014), co-writ­ten by Kim Yoon-hyeong and Kim Ji-seop, pro­vides more prac­ti­cal ad­vice for wip­ing out cor­rup­tion. It sug­gests that all res­i­dents sign up for their apart­ment’s web­site or blog be­cause res­i­dents’ com­mit­tees get “the jit­ters just by see­ing the num­ber of views rise.”

Com­mit­tee mem­bers “should nei­ther be an en­emy nor a friend” to the hous­ing man­age­ment company be­cause co­op­er­a­tion be­comes dif­fi­cult when they are hos­tile, the book says, and cor­rup­tion is pos­si­ble when they are too close.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Korea, Republic

© PressReader. All rights reserved.