(2nd LD) Gov’t vows compensation for residents amid probe into faulty apartment construction

The government and the ruling People Power Party (PPP) agreed Wednesday to push for granting prospective residents of poorly constructed apartments developed by the state-run Korea Land and Housing Corp. (LH) the right to cancel their contracts.

During an emergency high-level policy coordination meeting, they also promised to provide sufficient compensation to current residents of LH apartments affected by construction deficiencies.

A land ministry inspection has found that not enough reinforcing rods were put into columns supporting underground parking lots at at least 15 LH apartment complexes, even though the strength of such columns is significant in the flat plate slab construction system.

Critics say the builder could have tried to cut costs and speed up construction.

"The government will conduct comprehensive investigations into the affected apartment complexes, and thoroughly examine any misconduct and irregularities that might have occurred during the previous administration," Rep. Kim Jung-jae of the PPP said after the meeting that involved ranking officials from the presidential office, relevant ministries and the ruling party.

Kim heads a PPP task force to deal with the issue.

Based on the findings of the investigations, the government will push for reinforcement construction and hold those responsible accountable for the shoddy construction, she added.

The government plans to provide residents with appropriate compensation while granting prospective residents the right to terminate their purchasing contracts without any limitations on reapplication to buy an apartment, the lawmaker said.

Earlier in the day, the PPP said it is considering a parliamentary inspection into what led to the shoddy construction.

"An internal task force will be launched first for an investigation to find the truth and further consider pushing forward with the parliamentary inspection when needed," said Rep. Yun Jae-ok, a PPP floor leader, during a press conference.

On Tuesday, President Yoon Suk Yeol pledged to eradicate "cartels" with vested interests in the construction industry, citing them as a reason behind the shoddy construction practices revealed in the parking lots.

Yoon also clarified that all the problematic apartment complexes were designed and constructed before the current administration took office.

According to the ministry's findings, 15 public apartment complexes built after 2017 lack reinforcing bars, as it is judged to have become a common construction method since President Moon Jae-in took office in 2017.

"Serious flaws in the management policies of the Moon Jae-in government's housing construction cannot but be assumed," Yun said, mentioning another high-profile corruption scandal involving LH.

A number of former and incumbent LH employees were indicted last year on suspicion of using inside information for speculative property purchases.

"The government is conducting a full investigation, and an audit by the Board of Audit and Inspection (BAI) is probably expected," Yun said, adding that the decision-makers should be further investigated in accordance with the audit result.

The BAI said it is reviewing an audit of LH after a civic organization filed a complaint.

The Citizens' Coalition for Economic Justice has alleged favoritism between LH and other construction design and supervising firms that have recruited former LH ranking officials.

The audit will be carried out separately from the ongoing government investigation into apartment complexes built under contracts with LH and other private complexes.

Source: Yonhap News Agency

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