land minister-real estate market

SEOUL, March 12 (Yonhap) -- The new minister of land, transport and maritime affairs vowed efforts to normalize the country's slumping real estate market Tuesday, noting the prolonged recession is affecting the whole economy as well as the livelihood of the people.

"We have many urgent tasks ahead of us, but we must first normalize the real estate market," Suh Seung-hwan said at his inauguration ceremony. "The prolonged downturn in the real estate market is not only leading to shrinking of the real economy but is also threatening the very livelihood of our people."

The remarks came as the price of South Korean homes fell 0.26 percent on average from a month earlier in January, posting an on-month drop for 10 straight months. The number of unsold houses also inched up from a month earlier in January to 75,180 units, reflecting a pervasive recession in not only the real estate market but also the construction industry.

Suh vowed a major overhaul of government policy, which he said was currently focused more on balanced development of the country than what people actually need, according to a copy of his inaugural speech released by the ministry.

"Rather than expanding outside of city limits, we must start building more small homes for lease within city limits where the demand is the highest among college students, newlyweds and single-person households," he said.

"The government policy has so far sought to ensure balanced development of regions, but that needs to be changed to balanced development of areas where people actually live."

The former economics professor also called for efforts to improve or normalize the country's public transportation system, including its fees, though he did not specify whether such a move will lead to a drop or rise of fees.

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