Never-ending real estate speculationSpeculative real estate investments by public employees under the Moon Jae-in administration have stirred outrage among the public.
While under the command of Byeon Chang-heum, the now land minister, employees of the Korea Land and Housing Corp. (LH) and their family members purchased masses of land in Gwangmyeong and Siheung, Gyeonggi ahead of the announcement of massive redevelopment projects in the areas. Family members of former Busan Mayor Oh Keo-don who was pushed out of office for sexual misconduct were found to own land on Gadeok Island, which has recently been named as the site for a new airport.
Oh is responsible for causing the by-election on April 7 to fill the void in the mayoral post. He resigned from the post after admitting to sexual harassment allegations soon after the parliamentary elections in April last year. His nephew was found to own 1,488 square meters (0.4 acres) of land in the center of the site for a new airport since 2005. Oh has been pushing for Gadeok airport since 2004.
The LH scandal stems from typical insider trade corruption. Two progressive civic groups — the Solidarity of Participatory Democracy and the Lawyers for a Democratic Society — said in a joint press conference that 10 LH employees had invested 10 billion won ($8.9 million) to buy plots of land across Gwangmyeong and Siheung before the redevelopment project to build 70,000 apartments was announced. President Moon ordered a comprehensive probe on the Land Ministry, the LH and other public offices to discover other illicit practices by employees or family members.
Moon vowed certain rules in senior post appointments in the government. They must be clean from wrongdoings related to housing, property, tax or military service duties. But the rules were seldom followed. Some rather chose to resign to defy the president’s order to dispose of any extra homes they did not live in. Kim Eui-kyeom, who resigned as the presidential spokesman over allegations he used his influence to get loans on favorable terms to buy an expensive apartment, has succeeded to a legislative seat surrendered by Kim Jin-ae who’s running for the Seoul mayoral post in the April 7 by-election.
The LH probe must be thorough and comprehensive to lessen the anger by people who feel betrayed by a number of scandals related to figures in the government.