Land scandal stories don’t add up

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Land scandal stories don’t add up

The Blue House yesterday confirmed the relationship between Lee Gi-myeong and Yoon Dong-hyeok as a “long-term” acquaintances, as suggested in the Thursday edition of the JoongAng Ilbo and in other reports.
Mr. Lee is a central figure in the mysterious land transaction that raised money to pay off a debt for President Roh Moo-hyun, and Mr. Yoon has been called a son-like figure to Mr. Lee.
“The real owner of Somyeong Development Company is Mr. Yoon, and the current chief executive officer, Mr. Chung, is a just a representative,” said a statement released by Moon Jae-in, the Blue House senior secretary for civil affairs. “Mr. Yoon’s acquaintance with Mr. Lee goes back 17 years, and he is well aware of the land transaction concerning the land in Yongin.”
The Blue House paper expanding on the transaction of the 66,000-square-meter (79,200-square-yard) plot of land in Yongin previously owned by Mr. Lee ― who headed President Roh’s political support group. The report said that Mr. Yoon came forward to buy the land after hearing that Mr. Lee was looking to sell it in February, after a first attempted sale fell through. “Mr. Yoon proposed of building a welfare facility for the elderly on the land,” the paper said.
The Blue House’s explanation squarely contradicts what Mr. Lee told the Yonhap News Agency over the phone on Thursday. He said of the Somyeong Development Company and its people were “people I did not know before the contract, and saw for the first time at the time of signing the contract.”
The JoongAng Ilbo also reported realtors in Yongin testified that the pair enjoyed a close relationship.
The Blue House and Mr. Lee said that there was no price differential because a secret contract in the first sale included a clause about the buyer paying off Mr. Lee’s 1-billion-won ($830,000) debt from Kookmin Bank. The Blue House yesterday disclosed that that 1-billion-won was borrowed in the name of Kim Nam-soo, currently employed by the presidential task force for labor reform.
Despite the president’s news conference Wednesday, explaining the Byzantine land transactions, the opposition Grand National Party raised questions whether the land was the president’s and whether the president used leftover political funds from the presidential election to repay a debt to Korea Leasing Co. The land, four expensive plots in South Gyeongsang province, were either auctioned off or sold in order to repay the 3.4 billion won of debt rung up by a bottled water company formerly owned by Mr. Roh. One of the president’s closest aides, Ahn Hee-jung, operated the company until its recent demise.
The opposition Grand National Party yesterday said that it would make an on-site inspection of the land in question by traveling to Yongin Monday. The opposition said that they will also take the issue to the National Assembly.

by Kang Min-seok

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