Probe Lee’s illegal lobbyAnother corruption scandal stemming from collusion between public officials and businessmen spilled over while the country is still reeling from the power abuses and excesses of associates of President Park Geun-hye.
The developer of an upscale residential complex under development near the beachside Haeundae District in Busan is suspected to have handed out at least 50 billion won ($42.9 million) to former presidential secretaries, ruling party heavyweights, senior Busan city officials, prosecutors, and intelligence agency officials in the process of winning licenses and recruiting constructors. Lee Young-bok, CEO of Cheongan Construction, is charged with funneling corporate funds of more than 50 billion won for payouts to public officials. Prosecutors have indicted Lee and are investigating with the suspicion of being implicated with the president’s controversial friend Choi Soon-sil.
The LCT project is to build a 101-floor landmark high-rise with a luxury hotel and two 85-floor apartment towers, a water park, shops, and other commercial facilities at a cost of 2.7 trillion won. Lee is said to have been generous with bureaucrats and politicians in Busan in previous development projects in Busan.
Lee was a part of a monthly gathering of an elite inner circle along with Choi that each pooled 10 million won a month for peer-to-peer funding. Given Choi’s track record, she could have pulled strings for Lee’s project. LCT ran into trouble after Daewoo Engineering & Construction pulled out of the project. Construction resumed after a construction arm of steelmaker Posco took up the project last year.
Posco at the time was under prosecution probe and could have been forced to take up the project.
Haeundae Beach, in the country’s second largest port city, is a prized tourist destination. It has become the epicenter for real estate speculation through the dubious work of developers. Public authorities have abused public assets to fatten their pockets. They must be thoroughly investigated and punished.
JoongAng Ilbo, Nov. 12, Page 30