Real-Estate Speculation Probe Is a Sham

Real-Estate Speculation Probe Is a Sham

A special police taskforce investigating allegations of real estate speculation by public officials has cleared two ruling-party lawmakers but decided to keep probing one opposition lawmaker. Police mobilized 1,560 investigators who spent the last two-and-a-half months probing the allegations but ended up arresting only 14 people, none of them politicians or high-ranking government officials.

The police investigation began just before the April mayoral by-elections as the ruling party’s approval rating tanked. Now it looks increasingly likely that the investigation was just a show to win back votes. The government initially stopped prosecutors and Board of Audit and Inspection officials from joining the investigation team, clearly terrified of exposing skeletons in the closet. It took the police a week to conduct its first search, which gave the culprits ample time to destroy evidence and fix their alibis.

The Moon Jae-in administration refused to admit any wrongdoing and tried to pin the blame on someone else. President Moon said the investigation should “set an example of cleaning up real estate corruption among loyalists of the previous administration.” More than half of the Korea Land and Housing Corporation employees embroiled in insider land speculation committed the offenses when Moon loyalist Byeon Chang-heum was at the helm at LH, but Moon insisted on investigating officials from the former Park Geun-hye government first.

Kim Sang-jo, the former chief presidential secretary for policy, was found to have jacked up the lease on his apartment by 14 percent right before the government passed a law limiting the increase to five percent. A civic group reported Kim to the police in late March, but police have not even questioned him yet. Minjoo Party lawmaker Park Joo-min, who tabled the bill, jacked up the rent on his own apartment nine percent a month before the law was enacted. And former MP leader Lee Hae-chan’s farmland soared in value after an interchange was built near it. More than 10 ruling-party lawmakers and high-ranking provincial government officials loyal to Moon are suspected of real estate speculation. After the ruling party suffered its humiliating defeat in the by-elections, Moon vowed to crack down on real estate corruption. But absolutely nothing has happened.

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