Controversial land development project causes partisan turmoil

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The fallout from a controversial land development project authorized by Gyeonggi Province Governor Lee Jae-myung is spreading, threatening to bog down parties on both sides of the aisle.

The case came to light weeks earlier after it was reported that Lee granted business favors to Hwacheon Daeyu Asset Management in 2015 to help the company participate in a land development project in Daejang-dong. from Seongnam when he was mayor of the city.

Lee was charged with illegally aiding Hwacheon Daeyu with capital of 350 million won ($ 295,811) and earning more than 400 billion won in dividends.

The area, located next to a large cluster of startups just south of Seoul, was filled with high-rise apartment buildings and infrastructure during the development project.

The allegation immediately drew heavy criticism from the main opposition party, the People Power Party, which accused Lee of abusing his power as mayor.

Lee has denied all of the allegations against him, saying he never made any personal profit from the “well-executed exemplary project.”

A prosecution has been opened into the allegations, not against Lee but against members of the People Power Party, which is accused of using false information to derail his presidential candidacy.

The controversy took an unexpected turn on Sunday when it was reported that the 32-year-old son of representative Kwak Sang-do of the main opposition party had received an unreasonably large sum in severance pay after working at Hwacheon Daeyu as a full time employee. for seven years.

He reportedly received 5 billion won in severance pay in March. Kwak’s son is said to have earned a monthly salary of around 3.8 million won when he left the company and is legally entitled to severance pay of around 26.6 million won.

The news immediately turned the tide in favor of the ruling bloc, as Kwak has been one of the most vocal critics of the Moon Jae-in administration and the ruling party. Kwak is one of the leading figures in the opposition bloc, having served as Senior Civil Affairs Secretary under former President Park Geun-hye.

It was speculated that Kwak indirectly invested in Hwacheon Daeyu and received dividends as part of his son’s severance pay. Kwak and his son categorically denied all of the allegations against them.

Kim Man-bae, Hwacheon Daeyu’s largest shareholder, said before appearing for police questioning Monday that the large sum paid to Kwak’s son also included compensation for an industrial accident he suffered while he worked for the company.

Kim did not go into details, saying it was a private matter.

But Kwak nonetheless terminated his membership in the People Power Party, fearing the allegations could hurt the party’s prospects ahead of next year’s presidential election.

People Power Party Chairman Lee Jun-seok went further on Tuesday, asking Kwak to relinquish his seat in the National Assembly amid controversy because his explanation on severance pay was not sufficient to satisfy the public. The party leader warned against official procedures within the legislative branch to strip Kwak of his post.

Opposition figures have said Governor Lee is the main figure in the scandal, calling for a special council investigation and a special parliamentary inquiry into his involvement. They also argued that Kwak’s son is not the only one who received significant severance pay after working for Hwacheon Daeyu.

“The main cause of the scandal is the governor of Gyeonggi province, Lee Jae-myung,” former attorney general Yoon Seok-youl, a key presidential candidate in the People Power Party, said on Monday in an article. posted on Facebook.

“Lee himself came in front of the television to say he was behind the development project, and the evidence is there. There is no way he can hide it.

Gyeonggi governor’s side denounced the main opposition party for Kwak’s departure from the party, suggesting that severance pay received by Kwak’s son may have reflected a bribe for Kwak’s actions during his tenure with the park administration.

Governor Lee also called for the case to be referred to the prosecution or the Corruption Investigation Bureau for senior officials. His campaign office filed a complaint on Sunday with the prosecution, accusing Kwak of spreading false information.

Kwak claimed that Governor Lee is the de facto owner of Hwacheon Daeyu and designed the profit-sharing scheme for the 2015 development project. The lawmaker warned on Monday that he would take legal action against the team. Governor Lee’s campaign in response.

By Ko Jun-tae (ko.juntae@heraldcorp.com)


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