S. Korea aims for price-rise accountablity


SEOUL — South Korean President Lee Myung-Bak proposed on Tuesday that government officials be held responsible for price rises among key products, in a bid to make curbing inflation a priority in 2012.

Lee told a Cabinet meeting that officials should be publicly assigned to particular farm and factory goods, which they would then have to monitor and try to control their prices, his spokesman Park Jeong-ha told reporters.

“I’ve seen no one taking responsibility even if prices of essential items like cabbage rise,” Park quoted Lee as saying. Under the proposed policy, officials would set a target range for each product, especially food, and then work to make sure prices stay in that band.

“Each item should have an official assigned to control its price under this real-name price management system,” he was quoted as saying. No further details were available, including when the policy may be implemented or how many products it would cover. Lee pledged in a New Year speech Monday to keep inflation in the low 3-percent range this year, calling it his top policy priority in 2012.

“Growth is also important but now we will focus on inflation,” he said. Consumer prices in December rose 4.2 percent year on year, surpassing a targeted maximum of 4 percent for a second straight month. The Asian Development Bank has warned that rapidly rising prices were a “major risk” to the region with several nations, including China, making inflation control a top priority.