Go to contents

Gwangju Housing Scandal Probe Continues

Posted November. 24, 2005 08:29,   


The Central Investigation Division of the Supreme Public Prosecutors’ Office is reportedly planning to investigate Construction and Transportation Minister Choo Byung-jik next week. Choo was revealed to have borrowed 50 million won from Gyeonggi Research Institute President Han Hyeon-gyu (who was former vice political affairs governor of Gyeonggi Province and is currently behind bars) in the corruption scandal concerning apartments in Opo-eup, Gwangju, Gyeonggi Province.

The prosecution plans to look into the allegation that Han lent Choo 50 million won in February without an IOU in expectation of any preferential treatment out of one billion won that Jungwoo Construction Co. gave him for lobbying.

“The investigation team will decide on specific investigation methods, including written inquiry or visiting Choo for an investigation, through discussions,” a prosecution official said.

Choo explained the charge against himself, saying, “I borrowed 50 million won from Han in February due to economic difficulty, such as spending money on my wife’s stomach cancer operation after being defeated in the 17th general election,” adding, “Since the time I borrowed the money in question was before being sworn in as the construction and transportation minister as well as after permission was granted for the apartment development plan in Opo (last December), the money in question has nothing to do with the allegation.”

The prosecution also plans to summon former construction and transportation minister Kang Dong-seok next week. Kang served as the construction and transportation minister at the time when the Opo District Development Plan was approved.

The prosecution is planning to investigate Kang over whether he was involved in the process of the Ministry of Construction and Transportation (MOCT) changing its opinion regarding the Opo District Development Plan during his tenure. The prosecution also plans to probe into the background of the “measures meeting for resolving the public’s inconvenience and corporate hold-ups,” which was attended by officials of the POSCO Engineering and Construction Co., the construction company responsible for the Opo apartments, last July 1.

Prosecutors are planning to summon former senior presidential secretary for personnel affairs Jeong Chan-yong next week in a bid to investigate how he received a civil petition related to the permission of the Opo apartments from a broker, identified as Lee (53), who was hired by Jungwoo Construction. They will also try to find out the reason why the personnel office of the presidential office called in the director of the Housing Policy Bureau of the MOCT and POSCO officials together to Cheong Wa Dae, and if he gave any orders to the Board of Audit and Inspection (BAI).

The prosecutors investigated the head of the living and transportation office of the MOCT Yoo Deok-sang on November 22. Yoo, who served as the director of the National Land Policy Bureau when the Opo District Development Plan was approved, said, “We continued to remain steadfast in our opinion that it is impossible to permit the Opo Plan in light of the purpose of the legislation after the BAI launched its audit on the plan. In response, the BAI said that it had no choice but to mete out punishment and that it would take punitive action. So, we changed our opinion.”

The prosecution summoned two BAI officials, including the broker (identified as Seo)’s brother-in-law, an inspector identified as Lee, in order to investigate whether they exerted their authority in the process of permitting the plan, and if they contacted the broker.

The inspector identified as Lee is suspected of exercising his influence on the inspection of the Opo Plan at the request of the broker, his brother-in-law.

Myoung-Gun Lee jin0619@donga.com gun43@donga.com