The Democratic Party of Korea Tuesday revealed the names of 12 lawmakers, who are alleged to have been involved in illicit real estate deals, and asked them to leave the party, a decision made a day after the Anti-Corruption and Civil Rights Commission (ACRC) released the result of its investigation. The ruling party said it was an excessive presumptive measure considering that any crime is considered innocent until proven guilty but it was unavoidable. The DP appears to have taken into account the angry public sentiment over land speculative scandal and criticism surrounding lawmakers trying to protect their fellow lawmakers.
The investigation by the commission revealed three facts. Rep. Kim Joo-young, Kim Hoe-jae, Moon Jin-seok, and Youn Mee-hyang are suspected of abusing land trusts, getting into special real estate transactions between relatives or being involved in cases, where the seller became a creditor in a real estate deal and established an excessive right to collateral security. Rep. Kim Soo-heung, Yang Yi Won-young, Oh Young-hoon, Yoon Jae-gab, and Woo Sang-ho allegedly violated the Farmland Act, acquiring farmlands located at a considerable distance from their place of residence that had no traces of farming. It must be thoroughly investigated how they abused land trusts and why they purchased farmlands far from their residence.
The most serious violation was acquiring a land related to development projects in their own constituencies or buying a property even before a large-scale development project in the area was announced. Lawmakers Kim Han-jung, Seo Yeong-seok, and Yim Jong-seong are alleged to have done so. Instead of serving as the spokesman for the people, they greedily serve themselves by utilizing internal information. Prosecutors should an conduct impartial investigation and clarify violators to ask legal and political responsibility.
Some of the lawmakers are protesting against the decision and refusing to leave the party. There must have been limitations in revealing the facts as the commission did not have the right to investigate. But it was the lawmakers who did not cooperate with the investigation, refusing to submit the list of their financial transactions. Before complaining, they should be more cooperative in the investigations going forward. There were a lot of criticisms surrounding the investigation, calling it a “self-investigation” or “evasive” as real estate transactions under borrowed names cannot be investigated thoroughly. As many point out that the investigation may be “the tip of an iceberg,” they should figure out how to address suspicions over transactions under borrowed names.
The opposition People Power Party (PPP) should also investigate all real estate transactions of their lawmakers as well. The PPP said they will entrust the Board of Audit and Inspection of Korea with investigation as they cannot trust the head of the commission, who is a former lawmaker from the DP. The PPP should stop talking and start acting. They should immediately submit the consent of all lawmakers to the Board of Audit and Inspection. The PPP will face harsh judgment from the public if they stall for time with a political gesture and do nothing.