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Moon calls for all-out efforts to fight real estate corruption

President Moon Jae-in on Monday pledged all-out efforts to fight real estate corruption, especially among public officials, as he chaired an emergency session of the government’s Anti-Corruption Policy Consultative Council for Fair Society.

The meeting was attended by the ministers of finance, justice and interior, as well as the head of the Financial Services Commission and the acting prosecutor general. The last meeting was convened in June last year to discuss ways to root out corruption in power organs like the prosecution. 

President Moon Jae-in attends an anti-corruption council meeting with top officials at Cheong Wa Dae on Monday. (Cheong Wa Dae)
President Moon Jae-in attends an anti-corruption council meeting with top officials at Cheong Wa Dae on Monday. (Cheong Wa Dae)
“Public anger is building not just over some revealed cases but also over more fundamental issues,” Moon said, citing long-standing structural problems surrounding rampant speculative activities that have continued after years of city development across the nation.

“Now is the time to start from the very beginning. While addressing the latest scandal, the government will step up efforts to eradicate the structural and fundamental problems of real estate corruption.”

As for preventive measures, the government and the ruling Democratic Party of Korea are pushing new legislation obligating all public officials to declare their assets. They are also considering confiscating all illegal gains made from real estate speculation.

The president has urged the National Assembly to start the stalled stalks on the conflict of interest law as well as for setting up a watchdog specialized in monitoring real estate transactions among government officials.

The meeting of top officials comes amid public uproar over the government’s mishandling of the heated housing market and the snowballing insider trading scandal involving officials of the state-run housing developer Korea Land and Housing Corp.

The government has struggled to calm down the public anger and contain the political fallout, fearing the unpopular housing policy could dominate the state administration of the president’s final year in office.

Since the LH scandal surfaced early this month, the president has expressed his strong will to resolve the issue by releasing a total of 11 statements. But there seems to be little sign of abating in the mounting public anger.

In a recent poll released by Realmeter on Monday, the president’s approval rating marked 34.4 percent, one of the lowest marks in recent months. Maintaining the 41 percent approval rating that he earned during the presidential election has been widely considered a key barometer gauging his leverage in the final year.

Possibly in reflection of his will to fight corruption, the president earlier in the day dismissed his top economic adviser, Kim Sang-jo, over his controversial jeonse contract with a tenant last year.

Kim raised the jeonse deposit price of his Gangnam apartment by 14 percent on July 29 last year, two days before a new tenant protection law took effect to instill a 5 percent limit for such raises.

Even though the increase was legal at the time, the timing raised eyebrows, leading to his humiliating departure from the post.

By Lee Ji-yoon (jylee@heraldcorp.com)
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