Moon apologizes for LH scandal

Posted on : 2021-03-17 17:25 KST Modified on : 2021-03-17 17:25 KST
The ruling and opposition parties expressed an intention to bring in a team of special prosecutors
South Korean President Moon Jae-in speaks during a Tuesday cabinet meeting. (provided by the Blue House)
South Korean President Moon Jae-in speaks during a Tuesday cabinet meeting. (provided by the Blue House)

President Moon Jae-in issued an apology Tuesday over allegations of speculation among employees at the Korea Land & Housing Corporation (LH). The same day, both the ruling and opposition parties agreed to bring in a team of special prosecutors, launch a National Assembly investigation into state affairs and carry out an investigation of all National Assembly members in order to uncover the truth in the LH scandal.

This comes two weeks after Lawyers for a Democratic Society (Minbyun) and People's Solidarity for Participatory Democracy (PSPD) initially raised claims that staff at LH had been involved in speculation on the third phase of new cities, including Siheung and Gwangmyeong, both in Gyeonggi Province.

“I think we still have a long way to go in terms of the recent allegations of real estate speculation at LH,” Moon said in a public statement at a cabinet meeting Tuesday. “I am sorry that this has caused so much concern to the public.”

“In particular, this has brought great despondency and disappointment to people living honest lives,” he continued. “I am sternly aware of the corrupt structures in our society, and I will compose myself and approach this with a heavy sense of responsibility.”

This is the first time the president has apologized in relation to the LH scandal.

“We will stamp out real estate corruption across our entire society, beginning from public servants,” Moon continued. “Deep-seated corruption in real estate is one of the most important sources of social injustice in our society, and cleaning it up for good will serve as a turning point for making Korea a more transparent and just society.”

Although the president has expressed a strong commitment to stamping out speculation on several occasions over the past few days and appears to be tackling the problem head-on, it remains to be seen whether the goal of “rooting out deep-seated corruption in real estate” will be able to achieve the requisite momentum in his fifth year in office.

The ruling and opposition parties held a series of press conferences the same day, expressing an intention to bring in “a team of special prosecutors,” launch an investigation into state affairs and carry out an investigation into the real estate connections of all National Assembly members.

At a press conference held in the Communication Hall of the National Assembly in the morning, People Power Party (PPP) floor leader Joo Ho-young accepted the Democratic Party’s request for special prosecutors while also calling on the Democratic Party to “cooperate to ensure that the jointly submitted bill on LH special prosecutors is promptly processed at a full plenary meeting of the National Assembly during the March special session.”

Joo went on to say, “We are demanding an investigation into state affairs pertaining to all parties involved in land transactions for the third new town project, including Gwangmyeong, Siheung, Wangsuk in Namyangyu, Gyeyang Technology Valley in Incheon, Gyosan in Hanam, Changneung in Goyang and the Daejang Public Housing Zone in Bucheon.” The PPP also proposed carrying out an investigation of all lawmakers at the National Assembly level, which the Democratic Party has been calling for.

Democratic Party floor leader Kim Tae-nyeon held a press conference in the afternoon in the National Assembly’s party representative office.

“Although belated, it is fortunate that [the PPP] has made a sensible decision,” Kim said regarding the PPP’s decision to accept the special prosecutors. Kim also accepted the PPP’s proposal for an investigation into state affairs.

If the “Bill on LH Special Prosecutors” is passed by both parties, it would come three years after the special prosecutors’ investigation into the “Druking” election rigging scandal, while the investigation into state affairs would be the first in five years after the 2016 probe into Choi Seo-won’s (formerly known as Choi Soon-sil) meddling in national affairs.

By Lee Wan, staff reporter

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