[EDITORIALS]A shocking confirmation

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[EDITORIALS]A shocking confirmation

The prosecution announced yesterday that its special investigation from July to last month determined that among the 1,713 people it found were involved in real estate speculation, 27 were public servants. The government employees were found to have given tips on development-restricted areas to a group of real estate brokers and professional speculators, or issued fake certificates for acquiring agricultural land to those who were not qualified to buy such property.
The prosecution also revealed that some state workers bought land scheduled for future development by exploiting information they acquired through work, and illegally changed the usage of the purchased land to other purposes. Through land price increases originating from such activities, the employees earned a marginal profit. A high-ranking Construction Ministry official even received 100 million won in bribes in exchange for offering information on “green belt” areas to a real estate broker.
It is shocking to confirm the rumor that public servants are behind a property buying spree in specific areas. Those who are supposed to take the initiative in preventing and clamping down on speculation were actually at the center of a speculative venture. The moral insensibility of those government workers is highly deplorable.
In this country, where real estate regulations are more complicated than in other nations, public servants have the greatest authority and are in a position to know in advance which region will be developed and which area will have regulations lifted. Naturally, those involved in real estate are more exposed than others to the temptation of bribes and speculation. It is not easy to turn away from immense privileges and profits.
However, it is unacceptable to see them involved in illegal real estate speculation. Public servants’ participation in unlawful real estate speculation is not only an outright crime, but also causes enormous damage to the entire society, disgracing the majority of well-behaved public servants and tearing down the general public’s trust in government policy. Unless those state workers disappear, however hard the government presses the nation not to engage in real estate speculation, it will not work.
Of course, heavy punishment should be imposed on public servants involved in real estate speculation. However, a more fundamental solution lies in reducing the number of related regulations, thus removing the room for public servants’ arbitrary judgment and involvement.
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