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(EDITORIAL from Korea JoongAng Daily on Oct. 6)

Editorials from Korean dailies 06:55 October 06, 2021

Not going away

Yoo Dong-gyu, a key figure in the land development scandal in Seongnam city, Gyeonggi, is suspected of causing hundreds of billions of won, or hundreds of millions of dollars, in losses to citizens. He was arrested for potential breach of trust and taking a bribe in the lucrative Daejang-dong development project. Gyeonggi Governor Lee Jae-myung claims the development project was an exemplary case of retrieving 70 percent of profit from developers. In the National Assembly's audit of the government Tuesday, lawmakers from both sides of the aisle fiercely clashed over the scandal.

As top prosecutors handling the case are pro-government figures, it will not be disadvantageous to presidential candidates of the DP. At the top of the top law enforcement agency is Prosecutor General Kim Oh-soo, an avid supporter of the liberal government. But Yoo, a former acting president of the Seongnam Development Corporation, faces serious accusations.

Many suspicions linger over past development projects across the city. In a development project in 2015, private builders raked in over 200 billion won ($168.6 million) in profits after buying the site of a public corporation and constructing apartments. In another development project between 2013 and 2016, the same members who participated in the Daejang-dong project earned huge profits.

People involved in the Daejang-dong project claim that the enormous profits they earned were a result of the sharp increase in real estate prices under the Moon Jae-in administration. But property prices soared in other places too. They must explain why controversy only erupts in Seongnam city.

Governor Lee, the presidential frontrunner for the ruling party, admitted to his failure to oversee one of his aides in regard to the Daejang-dong project. And yet, he stressed the project should be praised, not criticized. On Tuesday, Lee even insisted that the city government was able to retrieve profits three times the total amount other city governments collected from their development projects.

Lee does not feel any sense of accountability even after his aide is detained on suspicion of causing massive financial losses to the city. He nonchalantly branded those involved in licensing large-scale development projects to developers as "devils." Who are the devils now? The police have finally announced a plan to impose a travel ban on eight people under suspicion and look into their bank accounts. But a lawyer involved in the scam already left for the U.S. and the police have yet to find critical evidence — Yoo's smartphone. The law enforcement authorities must clear all suspicions around the scandal before it's too late.
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