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Kang Ho-dong stirs another controversy over farm purchase

Was it an investment or speculation? The question looms over retired TV show host Kang Ho-dong, who purchased 2 billion won ($1.8 million) in real estate in Pyeongchang, Gangwon Province, where the 2018 Winter Olympics will be held.

The popular TV entertainer recently retired “temporarily” after coming under fire for underreporting his income. He claimed the error was a mistake, but caused suspicions of tax evasion.

According to local media, Kang has bought a total of 14,579 square meters of farmyard in a mountainous region of Daegwallyeong in Pyeongchang through two transactions in 2009 and 2011, both before Pyeongchang was announced as the Olympic host city.

On July 28, the government restricted real estate trade in the region out of concern over land speculation.

Kang filed a plan with the local government to cultivate the land in person as a potato farmer, which is a requirement for purchased of large areas of farmland. However, it is not known whether he grew potatoes personally. It is usually difficult for the government to monitor whether farmland is cultivated by its possessor or a third person.

If Kang had left the actual cultivation up to a third person and that person did not state during the monitoring period that the land is not being cultivated by Kang himself, it is hard to detect Kang’s violation of the farmland regulations.

Kang’s agency on Wednesday claimed that the purchase was a long-term investment. “The area is currently barred from any business transactions Furthermore, no one knows when the regulations will be eased,” it said.

However, once land trade in the area is deregulated, Kang is in for an easy fortune.

“The fact that he bought the land through two transactions makes people suspect that he sought something more than investment. Kang should be straightforward about the allegations,” a critic said.

By Bae Ji-sook (baejisook@heraldcorp.com)
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