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Second South Korean housing official found dead amid land scandal

Person did not appear to be subject of insider trading probe: Yonhap

At least 20 Korea Land and Housing employees are suspected of trying to use classified information to buy undeveloped land in South Korea before new projects were slated to begin..   © Reuters

SEOUL (Reuters) -- A second senior official from Korea Land and Housing Corp (LH) was found dead in Paju, north of South Korean capital Seoul, in an apparent suicide amid a growing insider property speculation scandal, an officer from the Paju Police Station said.

Yonhap news agency had reported the death earlier on Saturday, and had said the LH official did not appear to be a subject of a probe into the accusations of insider speculation by dozens of employees of the state housing corporation.

This is the second death of an LH official since the South Korean government this week declared war on property crime.

The other official was found dead on Friday, also of an apparent suicide. He had left a letter saying he was sorry for doing "undesirable things" when he headed LH's office in the province of North Jeolla, Yonhap had reported.

According to an initial investigation into the scandal, at least 20 LH employees are suspected of trying to use classified knowledge to buy undeveloped land before new development projects were slated to begin in the areas, South Korean Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun said on Thursday.

Criticizing the sluggish progress of the current probe, the main opposition People Party has demanded an investigation led by prosecutors to ensure a speedy and thorough process.

The scandal has sparked outrage in South Korea as property prices in and around Seoul have soared, making affordable housing hard to find.

South Korea's Minister of Land, Infrastructure and Transport, Byeon Chang-heum, has offered to resign over the scandal. Though he has not been implicated personally, Byeon was head of LH from April 2019 until December 2020.

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