An untrustworthy probe
President Moon Jae-in has issued two orders for a thorough investigation into allegations of insider trading by the Korea Land & Housing Corp. (LH) over the areas in Gwangmyeong-Siheung, Gyeongg, ahead of the state housing agency’s massive New Town redevelopment project in the region. Moon called for a comprehensive probe on all New Town designation areas to find out if the land purchases were made out of individual greed or stemmed from deep-rooted moral hazard or corruptive structure in officialdom.
The New Town project was the government’s 25th round of real estate measures last month amidst outcries against housing policy mess under the liberal government. President Moon called the latest massive supply measure “a policy of Byeon Chang-heum,” the new land minister and former head of the LH. If the latest policy also flops, the government could be faced with public skepticism over its real estate policy. The past measures failed due to the government’s misjudgment, but the latest case would be caused by favoritism and corruption of civil servants.
But whether a probe can be reliable raises suspicion. The probe is led by the Prime Minister’s Office and carried out by the land ministry. Civic groups such as People’s Solidarity for Participatory Democracy and Lawyers for a Democratic Society raise the possibility of collusion with the land ministry. But putting the probe in the hands of the ministry cannot guarantee a fair outcome.
Moreover, the ministry is being headed by Byeon, who led LH at the time. He also should be subject to the probe, instead of spearheading it, as the opposition People Power Party (PPP) insists. But Minister Byeon remains unaffected, pledging a so-called “clean” declaration with other public institution heads. The minister calls for a speedy execution of the probe into the transactions, which suggests he could be exempted from the investigation.
The Blue House attempts to skip investigations by the Board of Audit and Inspection and the prosecution under the pretext of “speediness” of the probe. Although the Prime Minister’s Office is in charge of keeping watch over government employees, the task has been handled by a special inspection team in the Blue House, as seen in its investigations of wrongdoings committed by former Busan deputy mayor Yoo Jae-soo. Too many suspicious dealings have been let off the hook and covered up. This time may not be any different.