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Another figure in land development scandal dies

Presidential candidate of ruling party denies involvement, calls for special counsel probe

Police conduct a forensic examination of Seongnam Development Corp. after Kim Moon-ki, head of the development division of the company, was found dead in the office Tuesday. (Yonhap)
Police conduct a forensic examination of Seongnam Development Corp. after Kim Moon-ki, head of the development division of the company, was found dead in the office Tuesday. (Yonhap)
A second key figure in the Daejang-dong land development scandal has been found dead, 11 days after another key figure also died.

The deceased, Seongnam Development Corp.’s development chief Kim Moon-ki, was among those prosecutors were questioning as part of their investigation into the development project, which took place while now-presidential candidate Lee Jae-myeong was mayor of the city.

On Tuesday, police said they discovered Kim’s body in an office of the company in Seongnam, Gyeonggi Province, at around 8:30 p.m. His family reported him missing at 8:13 p.m.

Earlier this month, Yoo Han-gi, head of Pocheon Urban Corp. took his own life after prosecutors requested an arrest warrant against him for allegedly accepting a bribe of 200 million won ($167,000) in exchange for favors for key partners of the land development project.

Yoo was Kim’s senior manager at Seongnam Development Corp. when the project was carried out.

Prosecutors had questioned Kim on allegations he turned a blind eye to the request to include a clause from the project contract that would allow the city government to recoup excessive profits made by private investors in the development project.

Kim and Yoo were also among the three judges who took part in the evaluations to decide on the preferred bidder of private companies for the land development project.

With the other judge, Jung Min-yong, who was the chief of the company’s strategy and business bureau at the time, Kim was found to have “unfairly” given high scores to the Hana Bank consortium that Hwacheon Daeyu was participating in -- aiding the consortium to win a contract in the development project.

Hwacheon Daeyu is the asset management firm at the center of controversy for reaping enormous profit from the land development.

Jung was indicted without detention Tuesday on charges including dereliction of duty and money laundering.

Following the deaths of the key officials in the land development project, political parties reiterated their calls to conduct a special probe with an independent counsel into the corruption scandal Wednesday.

A special probe with an independent counsel can take place after a bill passes the National Assembly, or when the justice minister finds the need for a probe into the case.

Lee Jae-myung, the presidential candidate of the ruling Democratic Party of Korea who the main opposition alleges to be the mastermind behind the Daejang-dong development scandal, said he has already asked for a special probe into the case

“I have already requested a parliamentary proposal for a special probe (into the case). I have not changed my stance that it is right to clarify the truth in the case, and have those responsible accept liability,” Lee said attending a ceremony in Seoul.

The main opposition People Power Party also called for an independent counsel to probe Lee’s involvement in the corruption case, as he was the mayor of Seongnam when the city’s land development project took place.

In a separate interview, Lee also said, “It is better if the case is clarified.”

“It may be too raw to put it this way, but (the scandal) is driving me crazy,” Lee added, when asked of his thoughts on his involvement accusation.

“Kim Moon-ki was the key person to tell us who ordered the removal of the critical clause on recouping excessive profit of private companies,” Kim Jin-tae, who heads the opposition party’s special committee on vetting Lee Jae-myung, said, visiting the Seoul Central District Prosecutors’ Office on Wednesday.

“There are so few people left who know the truth and we don’t know what other unfortunate events may occur,” Kim added, urging for the launch of a special probe into the case.

By Jo He-rim (
Korea Herald Youtube