Blaming the previous governmentPrime Minister Chung Sye-kyun apologized for causing “deep disappointment and a sense of betrayal” over the “shocking” allegations about Korea Land and Housing Corp. (LH) employees involved in real estate speculation in Gwangmyeong-Siheung. Deputy Prime Minister Hong Nam-ki and Land, Infrastructure and Transport Minister Byeon Chang-heum as well as ruling Democratic Party (DP) Chairman Lee Nak-yon all separately apologized.
All government and DP leaders have publicly apologized except for the president. But public sentiment remains sour and cold. The opposition People Power Party (PPP) as well as left-wing Justice Party demanded the president directly apologize to the people.
The ruling force vows “thorough fact-finding.” But it has been met with skepticism as a feigning gesture ahead of the April 7 mayoral by-elections in Seoul and Busan. The government has extended the probe on LH employees back to December 2013 despite the urgency to uncover the wrongdoings over the third New Town project. But the third New Town project was floated first in September 2018 in the second year under Moon. Land transaction spiked in the region from May 2019. The ruling front is picking on the former administration by claiming the practice could have had a long history.
The DP had blamed the spike in housing prices on the former Park administration. Now it is out to dump the speculative scandal on it. Four years have passed since Moon declared his government would divorce from past wrongdoings and ill practices.
The government’s approach to the LH scandal was wrong from the start. A joint probe is being led by the land ministry which is responsible for the LH mishap. After setting up a special task force, the ministry was to carry out fact-finding first before police could investigate further. But after criticism arose, the government said it will conduct fact-finding and investigation together. An anonymous prosecutor wrote that the LH investigation would likely end with fines on several low-level official without touching the higher ones.
The government must mobilize special prosecutors to go stricter on the probe. If necessary, it must summon the Board of Audit and Inspection. It has the duty to better respond to public anger after sending housing prices sky-high and unreachable for ordinary people.