The Korea Herald


Korean public housing developer probed over shoddy safety

Corporation at heart of affordable housing campaign accused of “illegal cartel activities”

By Kim Arin

Published : Aug. 8, 2023 - 17:46

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The ruling People Power Party lawmakers visit the site of LH construction mishap on Tuesday. (Yonhap) The ruling People Power Party lawmakers visit the site of LH construction mishap on Tuesday. (Yonhap)

South Korea’s major public housing corporation is facing multiple probes into its residential buildings found to be missing steel reinforcement that is needed to yield higher strength and protect against corrosion.

After the safety violations surfaced, the ruling People Power Party and the Yoon Suk Yeol administration vowed a crackdown on unsafe or illegal building practices in the construction industry.

The ruling party lawmakers on Tuesday visited an apartment building in Gyeonggi Province’s Yangju, belonging to one of the at least 15 complexes reported to be missing steel rebars.

“We’ll be looking into whether the residential buildings were built in accordance with the safety requirements, and whether there had been any problems in the way the permits were issued,” said. Rep. Kim Jung-jae heading the party’s task force dedicated to addressing the allegations of safety violations surrounding the public corporation.

The construction of the buildings without the crucial reinforcement was managed by the Korea Land and Housing Corporation, known widely by its acronym LH, which sublet some of the jobs to subcontractors. LH, trying to damage control, has since reported the subcontractors and some of its own staffers for investigation.

The police on Monday launched an investigation into LH -- at the center of the government campaign to expand affordable housing to lower-income Koreans -- on top of an ex-officio investigation initiated by the Fair Trade Commission the same day.

The investigations come after President Yoon told his Cabinet to “snuff out illegal construction cartel.”

In a Cabinet meeting held Aug. 1, the president accused the country’s real estate industry of being “mired in cronyism and corruption that threaten public safety.” “To do away with the unsafe practices so deep seated in the industry, strict administrative and judicial measures need to be applied for those who do not follow the safety code,” he said.

Won Hee-ryong, the Minister of Land, similarly accused LH of “questionable contracting,” claiming that many of the subcontractor companies working with the public corporation appeared to be its former executives.

The minister also dismissed the claims by the opposition Democratic Party of Korea over the weekend that the Yoon administration was responsible for the botched housings. The opposition party argued that the construction of the majority of the residential complexes were completed after the Yoon administration took office in May last year.

“These residential complexes may have been done being built in the past year, but they were inspected and approved over the last administration,” he said.