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Land minister says will take responsibility for LH employees' land speculation

This file photo, taken March 4, 2021, shows the headquarters of the Korea Land and Housing Corp., the state-run housing developer, in Jinju, 284 kilometers southeast of Seoul. (Yonhap)
This file photo, taken March 4, 2021, shows the headquarters of the Korea Land and Housing Corp., the state-run housing developer, in Jinju, 284 kilometers southeast of Seoul. (Yonhap)
Land Minister Byeon Chang-heum said Friday he will come up with measures to prevent employees at public developers from making speculative land purchases and could step down if his role falls behind public expectations.

Byeon made the remark after a joint investigation team found that Korea Land and Housing Corp. (LH) employees allegedly bought land for speculation in two cities, south of Seoul, before it announced a major public housing development project.

The minister has faced criticism as he served as the chief of LH before taking his current position in late December.

Among 20 LH employees subject to police investigation, 11 bought land in public housing development sites during Byeon's term.

"I will create measures to resolve public concerns and take responsibility to prevent reoccurrence of (land speculation)," Byeon said in a parliamentary meeting. "If my role is evaluated as not enough, I will not stick to my position and follow (the president's) decision."

Land speculation by the employees at the state developer has drawn strong backlash, as many non-homeowners are feeling the pinch of rising housing prices despite a series of government measures.

Earlier in the day, Finance Minister Hong Nam-ki said the government will seek to root out land speculation attempts and take a strong punishment against those caught for speculative deals, vowing to stage a "war" against crimes related to real estate.

"The government will draw up measures to eradicate property speculation and prevent the reoccurrence of similar cases as soon as possible in a bid to tackle speculation and illegal practices in the housing market," Hong said at a meeting with related ministers on the housing market.

The government earlier vowed zero tolerance for public servants found involved in real estate speculation using insider information, including filing criminal charges and having them disgorge more than ill-gotten profits.

Despite rising public distrust over the public housing development projects, policymakers said the government remains committed to its housing supply plan to stabilize the real estate market.

The government aims to increase over 830,000 new houses by 2030 via new housing development projects, redevelopment and other public housing schemes, mostly in the greater Seoul area.

Last month, the land ministry announced Gwangmyeong and Siheung, two satellite cities near Seoul, as the sites for approximately 70,000 new homes.

A month after announcing the sites, civic groups revealed that more than a dozen LH officials used insider information to buy about 10 billion won ($8.88 million) worth of farmland in the two cities between April 2018 and June 2020, which raised questions about the public developer's credibility. (Yonhap)

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