A government-linked real estate scandal has erupted in South Korea weeks before a pair of key mayoral races seen as referendums on the country’s leader.
President Moon Jae-in took office in 2017 with promises to crack down on government corruption and curb rising real estate prices. The latest scandal strengthens perceptions held by many South Koreans that government officials use their positions to unfairly enrich themselves, according to New York Times.
The scandal centers on the government-run Korean Land and Housing Corporation, which is in charge of developing housing in the country.
Last month, Moon’s administration announced it planned to build hundreds of thousands of new homes over the next four years, according to the Times.
The plan was a tightly-held secret until the announcement. Two civic groups recently reported that 10 agency officials months ago bought land in an area southwest of Seoul pegged for government housing development.
The government has since identified 20 other officials with the land agency suspected of using that information to buy land later slated for development.
Housing in South Korea has become unaffordable for many young Koreans — housing prices in Seoul have increased 58 percent since Moon took office in mid-2017.
Park Young-sik, a 29-year-old office worker, said the “scandal shows how some people in South Korea make a quick fortune through real estate foul play, while the rest of us can barely buy a house even if we toil and save for a lifetime.”
[NYT] — Dennis Lynch