Three ‘whistleblowers’ linked to leftist S. Korean presidential candidate are dead

by WorldTribune Staff, March 8, 2022

Three men who were potential whistleblowers in a real estate scandal involving South Korean presidential candidate Lee Jae-Myung have turned up dead, a report said.

“The ruling party’s candidate for the top job is suspected of profiting immensely from a multi-million-dollar real estate swindle, which allegedly included members of organized crime in his hometown of Seongnam,” columnist Donald Kirk noted in a analysis for the Daily Beast.

Lee Jae-Myung

Polls show that Lee and Yoon Suk-Yeol of the conservative main opposition People Power Party, are running neck-and-neck. The election, which has been marred by reported irregularities in early voting, is set for March 9.

Two top executives at the Seongnam Development Corporation committed suicide in December “just before they were to be interrogated for their roles in bribes related to the massive real estate project over which Lee held sway,” Kirk, a contributing editor for WorldTribune.com, noted.

In January, a third executive “died of a heart attack after saying that a local company had forked over enormous sums to cover Lee’s legal fees in an entirely different case, in which he was accused of lying when he denied having anything to do with his older brother committed to a mental hospital years ago,” Kirk wrote. “Family members of the three executives who carried with them the secrets of a massive real estate deal have not spoken publicly, and other insiders have gone quiet.”

Jang Young-Ha, a lawyer who has followed Lee for years, told Kirk: “People are afraid to talk.”

Lee, while mayor of Seongnam from 2010 to 2018, had the power to order the purchase of land at low prices for a development project and then parcel it out as joint public-private property. “As mayor he had a lot of authority,” said Jang.

At issue, Kirk wrote, “is what became of the profits of around $100 million, accrued by an asset management company that took over the project without having to compete for the bid. The government has spurned all demands for an investigation which the opposition People Power Party believes would point to Lee. The presidential candidate has not been charged and denies any complicity in the deal.”

Aides to Lee denounced as “fake news” any relationship between Lee, the mysterious deaths and the movement of hundreds of millions of dollars into secret coffers.

As the city of Seongnam grew rapidly it “attracted gangsters known locally as ‘the mafia’ thanks to the Godfather films and a ton of other American crime movies that proliferate on Korean TVs and computers,” Kirk wrote.

“Local mafiosi may have nothing to do with any international crime organization, but ‘the Seongnam mafia,’ like criminal organizations everywhere, exists on bribes, payoffs and favors while enriching themselves from internet sports gambling, said to be their primary source of income. To locals here, the hand of the mafia is seen in those three deaths and in threats that are fearful enough to breed its own omerta, or code of silence.”

Kirk cited a businessman who knows the city well as saying the need for silence could easily have led to two men taking their own lives rather than speak to prosecutors pursuing a scandal that could end up leading all the way to the presidential compound.

“The mafia hold the power here,” said the Seongnam insider who asked not to be named. “They were the only ones who can do these things.”

“They can tell these men, we will kill your family, your wife, your kids,” he told Kirk as the restaurant manager poured another shot of soju from the bottle beside him. “They may live in jail, but the mafia will blame them for anything they say and take revenge.”


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