Land being snapped up in area that will host the Olympics

Posted on : 2012-02-29 11:02 KST Modified on : 2019-10-19 20:29 KST
Questions being raised over legality of land purchases by celebrities and conglomerate heads

 By Han Gwang-deok, Senior Staff Writer


 It has come to light that, for more than 10 years, major shareholding families, former and current CEOs and high-ranking executives at Korean chaebols have been buying up large swathes of land around Pyeongchang, Gangwon province, where the 2018 Winter Olympics are to be held. Former heads of Gangwondo Development Corporation and celebrities also purchased Land.


 On Tuesday,, a website that tracks conglomerate activity, stated that, as of February 1, 22 major shareholders and affiliate persons at leading firms owned around 197,000 hectares in woodland and farmland in the vicinity of Pyeongchang. This area is home to Yongpyong Resort and Alpensia Resort, which will host the Winter Olympics. Last year, amid rampant speculation, it was designated a zone where land trading is permitted.


 GS Caltex executive director Huh Se-hong, eldest son of GS Caltex chairman Huh Dong-su, bought up 72,000 square meters of woodland and farmland in 2005 and 2009. This land is adjacent to the road that links Hoenggye Interchange, on the Yeongdong Expressway, to Alpensia Resort. In 2005, Huh also bought more than 1 sq km of land in Gunghang Village, Sagok-ri, Yeosu, where the Expo 2012 Yeosu is to be held.


 “The land in Pyeongchang was bought with the aim of creating an arboretum, and the land in Yeosu was bought on the advice of an acquaintance who asked for assistance with regional development,” said an official from GS Caltex.


 In 2005 and 2006, the family of Shin Yeong-ja, eldest daughter of Lotte Group chairman Shin Kyuk-ho and president of Lotte Shopping, purchased 11,050 sq m of land in Yongsan-ri, near Alpensia Resort. This land is adjacent to the some 19,000 sq m of land bought in 2009 and 2011 by celebrity Kang Ho-dong. The appraised value of the land when Shin‘s family purchased it 2,500-3,000 won per sq m, but this rose by around eight times to 23,000 won last year. “President Shin bought the land in order to build a country house,” Lotte Group stated. “Construction was halted following the financial crisis, and the market value of the land is now lower than when it was purchased.”


 Major shareholder families of medium-sized firms have also been buying land in the Pyeongchang area since 2000. Go Hui-seo, chairman of the Nongwoo Group, bought 10,400 sq m of land purchased in 2000 for work purposes by Nongwoo Bio, of which he is the major shareholder. Jeon Jang-yeol, chairman of Kumkang Industrial, bought 25,600 sq m of land in his wife’s name in the Yongsan-ri area between 2000 and 2003, before giving it to his two sons a few months later.


 Many of the current and former conglomerate CEOs involved were from affiliates of Samsung. Bae Ho-won, former president of Samsung Fine Chemicals, purchased more than 3,000 sq m of woodland and farmland in Hoenggye-ri and Yongsan-ri in his wife‘s name in 2006, when he was president of Samsung Securities. Former Woori Bank president Park Hae-jun, once an executive and Samsung Fire & Marine Insurance and now president of Yongsan Development Co., Ltd, was revealed to have bought land in 2006 in Yongsan-ri, which he has since sold.


 Jo Bang-rae, former head of Gangwondo Development Corporation, bought more than 5,400 sq m of land near Alpensia Resort, with which he had been professionally involved, by auction immediately after retiring in October 2010, and has been keeping it in his children’s names, prompting expectations of controversy.


 A considerable number of those who bought land appear to have broken laws relating to agricultural land. “I confirmed that there were hardly any instances where agriculture was being practiced in the fields that had been bought,” said Jeong Jeon-seop, a representative of who visited the area.

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