[EDITORIALS]Something Smells Bad in Bundang

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[EDITORIALS]Something Smells Bad in Bundang

Suspicions of special favors involved in the rezoning and selling of commercial land in Bundang by Korea Land Corp. are growing exponentially each day. Unless we posit that total and comprehensive corruption was involved, there is no way to explain the actions of several parties involved. They include the H-One Development Company, which purchased the land, and public agencies such as the Ministry of Construction and Transportation, the Seongnam city government and the Korean Land Corp.

Furthermore, with the accusation that H-One made outrageous profits on the deal, the names of political heavyweights are floating about as if they were behind the deal. We cannot help but be reminded of a similar case in Suseo, near Bundang, in 1996.

Basically, there are three questions to be answered. How was the commercial land rezoned for residential use? How was the land sold to H-One through a private contract? Were there in fact politicians behind the fishy deal? First of all, it is exceptional that land designated for commercial and business use is turned into commercial and residential land. The Gyeonggi provincial government was explicit about its opposition to the Seongnam city government's plan to change the designation of the land, but the city government went ahead with its plan, ignoring the provincial government's opinion. Although jurisdiction over land rezoning is in the hands of city governments, the Seongnam government's action looks quite unusual. In fact, the city government's plan was executed only five months after jurisdiction was yielded to city governments from provincial governments in February 1999. Interestingly, the jurisdiction again went back to provincial governments in July 2000. There is a strong possibility that the entire process was thoroughly premeditated by those involved in the land deal. The Seongnam city government is said to have carried out the plan even by fabricating the results of a survey on the rezoning.

The Korea Land Corp. attached a condition that apartments be built on the site as a condition of the land sale even before the rezoning, and it does not make sense that it applied for the rezoning of the land to the Seongnam city government after signing the contract. In addition, the corporation abruptly stopped its efforts to sell the land to the Military Mutual Aid Association. Why did it sell the land to an individual through a private contract instead, leading him to benefit greatly by the instant price difference? It is natural that a controversy over the deal has erupted.

Land near Bundang similarly returned to the Korea Land Corp. by a company, Nasan, because of its liquidity problems, was sold for 10 billion won ($7.6 million) more than expected through a public bid.

There are many mysteries surrounding H-One and its owner. It is beyond our comprehension how he established a company three months after he bought land for more than 100 billion won. He bought the land one month before the Seongnam city government started the process of changing the use of the land in June 1999. We cannot help but suspect that the city government's plan about the land was leaked to him. H-One Development entered with initial capital of only 300 million won. The founder of the company was allegedly busy securing money for the contract deposit, indicating that he was not a man of means. It is natural for us to wonder where the money for the land came from.

Suspicions about the land deal are too specific to be left uninvestigated. The case seems like a fully blown balloon that would immediately burst if someone simply looked at it closely. The prosecution should start investigating the deal. It will be too late if the prosecution begins an investigation only after securing evidence of a crime.
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