S. Korean presidential contenders attack one another for misconduct

Posted on : 2021-10-18 17:42 KST Modified on : 2021-10-18 17:42 KST
Both Lee Jae-myung and Yoon Seok-youl have gone as far as proposing to arrest their opponent once elected
Presidential contenders Lee Jae-myung and Yoon Seok-youl (graphic by Park Min-ji)
Presidential contenders Lee Jae-myung and Yoon Seok-youl (graphic by Park Min-ji)

Democratic Party presidential nominee Lee Jae-myung and frontrunner for the People Power Party nomination Yoon Seok-youl have been butting heads, with each of them raising the possibility of having the other arrested once elected.

Lee maintained that Yoon “should be arrested” over what he called the “failure to investigate” the scandal-ridden Busan Savings Bank, prompting Yoon to counter that he intended to “stop the Lee Jae-myung family from stealing from the South Korean public.”

In a Facebook post Sunday, Lee wrote that he was “calling once again for a reasonable explanation as to why a patent case of loan improprieties was excluded from an investigation [by Yoon] as the lead prosecutor in an investigation over illegal loans by Busan Savings Bank.”

“If [Yoon] deliberately avoided an investigation in spite of the evidence of corruption, then that is dereliction of duty, which is a serious crime,” he added.

The day before, Lee said, “Even as the Korea Land and Housing Corporation (LH) was pursuing co-development [in Seongnam’s Daejang neighborhood], the Busan Savings Bank Group provided no less than 115.5 billion won in land purchasing and other funds beginning in November 2009 to people pursuing private development.” That sum comes to around US$97.4 million.

“That’s an enormous amount of loans for a single project, yet it was not subject to investigation despite there being risky, speculative loans in violation of government public development guidelines,” he also said.

Lee suggested that Yoon, who was the lead prosecutor as director of the second central investigation division at the time, let the figures involved off the hook.

“If anyone should be arrested, it looks like it should be Yoon [Seok-youl], not Lee Jae-myung,” he said. His remarks were a rejoinder against Yoon, who had previously alluded to a possible “unprecedented situation where a leading presidential candidate [Lee] is arrested.”

In his message Sunday, Lee pressured Yoon for an explanation, noting that the eyes of the nation were on him.

“Thanks to the help of a People Power Party that is doing everything in its power to stop public development, developers managed to get away with some of their development profits, which were used to purchased Yoon’s father’s house,” he added, in a reference to the purchasing of a house for Yoon’s father by the older sister of Kim Man-bae, the majority shareholder of the asset management company Hwacheon Daeyu.

Meanwhile, Yoon went after Lee with allegations concerning a historical site in Seongnam’s Baekhyeon neighborhood and changes to zoning to allow for apartments there, which he said were examples of Lee’s “chronic breaches of trust.”

Commenting on the Baekhyeon apartments, Yoon said that in 2015, Lee used his power as mayor of Seongnam to repeatedly change zoning ordinances in the area where the Korea Food Research Institute had once been located, turning “a natural greenspace into a quasi-residential area.”

“Bids for the land had failed eight times because zoning changes weren’t allowed, yet a zoning change was granted straight away once Lee’s election headquarters chief Kim [name redacted] came on board with the project company,” he noted.

“Thanks to Lee Jae-myung’s preferential treatment, the development company earned a huge parceling profit of 314.2 billion won, while his associated Kim [name redacted] demanded a 25% share from the developer and ended up receiving 7 billion won after a lawsuit,” he continued.

Describing this as “very similar to the relationship between [former acting president of the Seongnam Development Corporation] Yu Dong-gyu and Hwacheon Daeyu,” Yoon characterized it as “an obvious case of stealing from the public.”

Commenting further on the Baekhyeon historic site allegations, Yoon also said that a “private company won a long 30-year rental contract not through competitive bidding, but with a private contract.”

“One of the people working at the company was a former official with an organization affiliated with the city of Seongnam,” he noted, adding that “Lee Jae-myung’s associates keep popping up in all of these questionable projects.”

Meeting with reporters the same day at the National Assembly press center, Yoon also addressed Lee’s accusations concerning the Busan Savings Bank investigation.

“While I was with the prosecutor service’s central investigations division, I was involved in things like the Samsung slush fund case, and [Lee’s accusations] operate on the same logic as asking why we couldn’t find the places Samsung had been lobbying,” he said.

“It’s the same as accusing me of not investigating him when I learned about the Daejang case while I was Prosecutor General. It’s comical,” he added.

By Joh Yun-yeong and Kim Mi-na, staff reporters

Please direct questions or comments to [english@hani.co.kr]

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