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Special unit launched to probe illegal real estate brokers


South Korea’s Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport said Monday that it has launched a squad with investigative powers to effectively crack down on illegal or unfair practices in the real estate market.

According to the ministry, the “special judicial police” will probe long-existing issues such as real estate contract frauds and illegal transfer of bank accounts that gives its holders unfair priority. It will also look into new issues including unregistered brokering via online platforms such as YouTube.

The squad comprises officials from the prosecution, police, the National Tax Service and related government ministries.

The ministry noted new forms of real estate fraud and tax evasion have emerged with the growing use of smartphones and the internet.

Illegal real estate transactions through YouTube, various online communities and even messenger apps such as KakaoTalk have recently increased, it said. Lately, Korean YouTubers have been using its contents to attract customers to paid online and offline classes. The squad will look into the cases for signs of tax evasion or other illegal transactions.

The current law requires the presence of a licensed real estate agent in the act of transactions. It would be seen as a breach of Act on Fair Labeling and Advertising if a YouTuber promotes certain real estate agencies upon request by construction companies.

Online classes that teach students how to evade tax in the process of real estate transactions will also be probed by the squad.

“With the launch of the new squad, we will start a large-scale probe into all illegal activities in the real estate market,” an official at the land ministry said.

“Our main subjects will include acts of disruption of the market through YouTube and social networking services amid a heated housing market here,” the official added.