Gwangyang police probe city's mayor over land development

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Gwangyang police probe city's mayor over land development

Police raided Gwangyang City Hall and the city mayor's house following accusations that he used his position to influence development in the area to his advantage.
 
Jeong Hyeon-bok

Jeong Hyeon-bok

Gwangyang, South Jeolla, Mayor Jeong Hyeon-bok and his immediate family are under investigation because of suspicions that he directed road development on and around land owned by himself and his children.
 
The raids, which focus on a conflict of interest rather than a land purchase, mark an expansion of the seemingly never-ending nationwide investigation into real estate-related abuses by public officials who have access to inside information on development plans.
 
Planning for a two-lane road over the rural plot of land, owned by the mayor and his family for 41 years, began in 2016. Park took office in 2014.
 
Controversy erupted when it became known that the mayor and his children received excessive compensation for the portion of the land over which the road is being constructed.
 
There is also a county road under construction near a plot of land in Jinweol-myeon within Gwangyang, bought under the name of the mayor’s wife two years ago. At the time of purchase, the mayor’s wife wrote on the land registration form that she planned to grow plums on the land.
 
South Jeolla police sent 17 detectives to Gwangyang City Hall to seize computers and documents from the mayor’s office and to the city's road department to investigate the accusations and secure files related to the road development plans. They also sent investigators to the mayor’s home.
 
Police are also looking into reports that Park used his power to help the children of those who supported his election effort gain employment at the city hall.
 
In response to the allegations, Park issued a statement saying, “If any legal issues arise with regards to my real estate affairs, I will resign immediately from the mayor’s office.”
 
A source at Gwangyang City Hall who spoke on the condition of anonymity suggested that road construction over the patch of land did not come about only to benefit the mayor.
 
“While it is true that allegations were raised concerning the road development, residents in that area also wanted a road for a very long time,” the source said.
 
BY SHIN HYE-YEON, MICHAEL LEE   [lee.junhyuk@joongang.co.kr]
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